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Delaware libraries host hip-hop literacy program

Public libraries across the state are hosting programs that get kids reading—and rapping— as part of theSummer Library Challenge.

Roughly twenty kids learned about vowels, syllables and rhyming at the Kirkwood library Tuesday.

Bomani Armah, orBaba Bomani when he’s performing, has honed his teaching techniques over several years working with toddlers to teens. He says rhymes, rhythms and movement help kids internalize concepts in reading, math and history — and get kids excited about writing.

The Maryland-based educator mainly performs his hip hop literacy programs at schools, after-school programs and camps.

He adapts his programs to the age of the audience. His interactive rap and dance lessons range from the alphabet to the writing process and history lessons.

Tuesday’s program at the Kirkwood library ended with a rap about Frederick Douglass teaching himself to read—and freeing himself from slavery.

“He took his literacy into his own hands. And if you talk to 11, 12, 13-year-old boys, that’s the stage where you want to be a rebel,” said Armah. “And his rebellion was, I’m going to spend as much time as possible so I can to educate myself, because I know that if I’m educated I can move forward. And that’s the message I love leaving."

Elisabeth Simmons, youth and teen services librarian at the Kirkwood Library, voted to include Armah's program this summer because of how he engages kids through music and dance.

“For those kids that go, ugh I can’t stand reading, it’s too hard … There’s reading involved in this program that energizes you, that affects your whole body,” she said. “So sometimes for those kids that are either just starting or are on the reluctant end of it all, their eyes will be opened.”

The “Rock the Mic: Hip Hop and Literacy” program landed in New Castle County public libraries in June, and continuesin Sussex and Kent county libraries through mid-August.

The Summer Library Challenge also features programming about natureand storytelling.

The Summer Library Challenge is an effort to promote literacy and reduce the summer learning loss for Delaware kids.

According to Beth-Ann Ryan, deputy director at the Delaware Division of Libraries, the annual Challenge is the longest running statewide summer reading program in the nation. It’s in its 39th year.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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