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Linda Mitchell

Linda Mitchell

Linda M. Mitchell is the executive director and founder of the Metro East Literacy Project. Her interest in literacy sprang from her own experience of having an illiterate grandmother. Linda is an experienced educator with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism and a Masters in Education, with an emphasis on E-Learning, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Linda taught first, fifth, and sixth grades, and high school English at a small private school for six years where she now serves on the school board. At the same time, during the summers and in the evenings, she taught GED classes and volunteered as a reading tutor. Recently, Linda has written two nonfiction children’s books entitled Love Me Always, A Photographic Celebration of Children Growing Up and How Are You Today? A Photographic Celebration of Children’s Emotions, two titles in her Photographic Celebration Series. These books have given her a platform to speak to audiences about the importance of literacy and to share her love of reading with children through a summer reading series she helped develop.

Posted by on in School Culture

If life imitates art, as the aphorism goes, I sure wish the boy drawn in a C.F. Payne illustration would become real like Pinocchio did. The illustration depicts an African-American boy standing on a street corner engrossed in reading a book while a crowd of people behind him is enthralled by the latest technological gadgets displayed in a store window. When “Word Power” first appeared on the back of an issue of Reader’s Digest, I was immediately struck by the powerful yet relevant message that reading a book still matters in today’s digital, video game-leavened society. Marita Golden, author of The Word, eloquently states the importance of reading a book.  She said, “The seductions, innovations, and revolutionary changes brought forth by the computer chip do not erase the fact that the bound book remains one of the most convenient and impressive of technological inventions.”  She further describes what reading a book does for us. “It provides a private, intimate, sensual experience that results in expansion of the mind and enhancement of the soul,” said Golden.


I was encouraged to see an African-American boy leisurely reading a book in Payne’s illustration, especially when it is something I rarely see inside or outside of classrooms in some communities.  The 2011 Nation’s Report Card reveals that 41% of African-American eighth-graders read below basic level, 44% at basic level, and only 14% at proficient level. That tells me that, for many kids, the practice of reading books is not a priority. I am sure many of us are aware of the grim realities about the educational crisis facing the vast majority of black students in this country.  However, the focus of this blog is not to dwell on the problems of our educational institutions but to help find solutions. I want to know how the boy in this picture can become the rule rather than the exception.


Fortunately, I do know a real life example of a young man just like the boy in the picture.  His name is Cullen Watkins, of East St. Louis, Illinois. Cullen is a freshman at Morehouse College in Atlanta and an avid reader.  In this interview, Cullen tells how he developed his path to literacy.

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