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Prince George's County teacher uplifts African-American boys with virtual book club

A Capitol Heights Elementary school teacher empowers Black and Brown boys through books that reflect positive images of African-American people.

CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md. — An elementary school teacher goes beyond his virtual classroom to inspire Black and brown boys through a book club designed just for them.

Not all superheroes wear capes.

Just ask a few elementary school boys in Prince George’s County who know one personally. He is a school teacher who goes beyond his virtual classroom to empower Black and brown boys through reading.

For Tramaine Crawford, a third and fourth-grade reading, writing and social studies teacher at Capitol Heights Elementary, his after school virtual book club is about inspiring the next generation. It is a virtual space where minority students can dream big with the help of books written by Black authors with positive images of Black people.

This is important for Crawford, who says this type of empowerment is much needed amid a push for social change.

“As a teacher, I noticed that with the books we read, there are a very limited amount of books that provide positive images and stories of Black boys,” said Crawford, who is also a mentor to the students. “Children become what they see.”

Credit: Tramaine Crawford

Before the new school year started with virtual learning, Devin Jones, 9, and his cousin Chase Smallwood, 8, spent part of their summer reading with just over 30 other students enrolled in Crawford’s book club. 

Some of the readings included: X: A novel, a fictionalized account on the early life of Malcom X. Another book was Dear Martin, which tells the story of a 17-year-old boy who finds himself in a sticky situation with police and looks to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings for guidance.

“These two books helped our boys deal with the current issues we’re facing as it relates to police violence and how Black boys interact with police,” said Crawford, who tells WUSA9 that the sessions are also a safe space for dialogue about real-world issues.

Credit: Yolanda Jones

For the last five years, Crawford has offered the book club to students through his TLC Virtual Literacy and Leadership Academy. Before the pandemic, the sessions would be held at a library but now they are all online for boys who are between the third and eighth grades.

Each Zoom session has up to 10 kids and lasts for an hour, once a week. Each day is designated for students in a specific grade. The monthly fee is $59.

Devin and Chase are excited to participate in the fall session. Not only will the next set of novels focus on Black Panther, played by the late Chadwick Boseman, but, but the boys will also get to learn from someone who has given them their own powers to reach for the stars, Mr. Crawford.

“He’s happy to help other people become better leaders,” said Jones about Crawford’s teaching.

“It makes me feel great, I feel proud,” said Crawford, who is a father of two girls, but feels like the boys he teaches are family too.

If you would like to register your child in Crawford’s after school virtual book club, the deadline is September 13.

The next session starts on September 14 via Zoom.

You can contact Crawford via email at tramaine@tramainecrawford.com or Twitter at MrCrawfordEDU.  

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