According to a recent report released by the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanic high school drop-out rates are at a record low. While this is encouraging, there’s still much work needed in order to close the educational achievement gap for the next-generation of Latinos. The same report also conveys these negatively impacting facts: “Hispanic college students are less likely than their white counterparts to enroll in a four-year college (56% versus 72%), they are less likely to attend a selective college, less likely to be enrolled in college full-time, and less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree” (Hispanic High School Rates Pass Whites in College Enrollment, Pew Hispanic Center, 2013).
Hispanic America: faith values and priorities, a comprehensive study done by Barna Hispanics, American Bible Society, NHCLC and OneHope, sheds additional light on this problem. Far beyond the issues of healthcare, unemployment or immigration reform, drop-out rates were listed as the highest area of concern by 58% of the Latinos who participated in the national study.
So where do you begin to tackle such a complex socio-economic issue? Some might argue that the role lies solely within the family unit itself, while other might place responsibility on raising the quality of education we offer our students within the classroom. As a pastor for over 30 years and one who’s mentored hundreds of youth around the country, I’d like to respectfully submit yet another option: that we, as faith leaders in our communities, return to the timeless principles of the Bible in order to remind our youth of the God-given purpose within each of them. Where better to teach a young person about resilience than by connecting them to one of the many Biblical misfits and outcasts who, against all odds, were able to accomplish great things? What better book than the Bible, one which guided the very forefathers of this country, can teach our youth about dedication, excellence, purpose, integrity and focus? By intentionally tackling the issue of biblical illiteracy through the encouragement of personal and daily interaction with the Bible, we are setting our youth up with the foundational, character-building qualities they need to ensure their academic success.
Some time ago, a literacy expert at the Bank Street College of Education, key partners of the American Bible Society and leaders in the area of early childhood education, put it this way: “The Bible is not just some random book of stories. On the contrary, it is the ‘core’ of our Western literature. [It is] as important to achieving literacy as Shakespeare or Dickens would be.” That’s why as we plan for the inception of a new school year, let’s pledge to make the issue of biblical illiteracy a priority in our churches and our communities. God’s Word assures us: “Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life” (Proverbs 22:6, GNT). Let’s watch what happens as we follow this charge and infuse the transformative power of God’s Word into the lives of our youth!
For free Spanish-language resources, please visit www.SaborealaBiblia.com
Rev. Dr. Emilio A. Reyes is the Executive Director of the Multi-Language Ministry Unit at American Bible Society, which exists to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message.