D.C.’s Leading Men Of Color Are Teaching Preschoolers to Read

Torren Cooper, a Leading Men Fellow, walks with Kree Reid, 3, to a spot in the hallway of Turner Elementary School where they will work on literacy skills. Photo Credit: Tyrone Turner / WAMU

Torren Cooper, a Leading Men Fellow, walks with Kree Reid, 3, to a spot in the hallway of Turner Elementary School where they will work on literacy skills. Photo Credit: Tyrone Turner / WAMU

According 88.5 WAMU's Kate McGee, Turner Elementary School in Southeast D.C., is one of many DC schools that are implementing a new literacy program for preschoolers with disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Torren Cooper, is one of eight young men of color doing this work in D.C. Public Schools through a new program called the Leading Men Fellowship, which is wrapping up its first year. Cooper is the only male of color who works directly in the classroom, even though the student body is 98 percent African American.

The program trains recent D.C. public school graduates to be literacy coaches in some of the poorest schools in the city. DCPS partners with a local non-profit, The Literacy Lab, to develop the curriculum. The district provided training for the fellowships last summer and hosted weekly professional development sessions throughout the year. Nearly all the fellows graduated high school last year, but Cooper has his bachelor’s degree and is pursuing his master’s.

The Leading Men Fellowship program was created to address two different problems. First, it increases the number of males of color in early education, secondly — it helps reduce the gap in language development for preschoolers from low income neighborhoods. Read more here.