3 Parent Power Responses to 3 Things He Said



My parent power moment came at the end of Christmas break 2012. It’s only now that I truly recognize it as a powerful moment to be shared. My joyful third grade son, the only boy of color in his class, told me something that set fear in, and broke my heart, all at the same time. Curled up in front of the fireplace, he shared in confidence that something bad was going on with school. In enters fear, the fear that lurks in the corner for many parents of color about their sons. He went on to say, “I don’t think reading comes natural to me, and I’m always one of the last to finish reading in class”. My heart is breaking, thoughts of stereotype threats with black and brown boys/academics dancing in my head. I immediately jumped into parent power mode. Putting on my cape, I swooped down with a big hug and looked into his beautiful brown eyes saying three things to encourage and empower both of us.


  1. There wasn’t one thing bad about what he had told me
  2. Together we would figure out books that matched his interests
  3. Reading is fundamental to everything, hence you have to do it, and do it well

Together we finished his winter break reading of Wonderstruck, and as a family made a game plan:

  1. The next morning, IHOP then Barnes & Noble to explore books of interest
  2. Schedule alternating nights for Dad, and I to read aloud to our son
  3. Email a succinct note to his teacher…We have to talk when school resumes

My son chose a chapter book Shark Wars (loved it), and gave in to my choice of a Newbery award winning book (still hasn’t read it).

We followed through on reading aloud to him each night. I’ll admit we’d abandoned reading aloud once he became what we thought to be a proficient reader, sending him off to read on his own as part of homework. However, I remembered teachers encouraging it. Feeling guilty, we eagerly resumed our responsibility, establishing great bonding time and his desire to take over and read the next adventurous chapter!

Next was the parent/teacher call (we happen to really like his teachers). I explained what was shared in confidence, our families game plan, and concerns over my son being told he needs to speed up his independent reading when I distinctly recalled being told earlier that he was reading too fast, skipping words he didn’t recognize. His teacher reassured me his reading comprehension was great, not having to go back and re-read, as was the case with some of his classmates. Empowered enough as a parent, I was clear that words are powerful and whatever was said to my guy about being one of the last to finish made a huge impression on him.

Hence, the overarching concern of stereotype threat for boys of color and the expectations around academics. In RIISE’s winter newsletter, we shared a blog that referenced the work of Josh Aronson on Stereotype Threat. Coincidentally, Josh was introduced to our school community just before the break, parents and teachers alike. I am thankful that our school dug deep with this phenomena which everyone experiences at some point with expectations around gender, race, culture, economics, education, sports, etc. Ultimately, this allowed his teacher and I to have the discussion on common ground, with explicit determination to circumvent this phenomena for my ‘lil man in the classroom.

Today, we have a voracious and confident third grade reader with a fondness for author Dan Gutman and the occasional shark and horse books. Once again, I’m convinced of the parent power factor in shaping our kid’s educational experiences, whether in an independent school or not.

Got a Parent Power experience that reaped rewards? Share your best practice with us.


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