Dr. Tererai Trent asked one simple question to girls at Mark Twain and Adelle Turner elementary schools—“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The question gave rise to wide eyes and a whirlwind of girls’ hands up in the air ready to announce to their peers their dreams.
Whether a veterinarian, a ballerina, a teacher, or a police officer, each and every girl had a dream to become something, which was just the message behind Trent’s book, “The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can.”
The story follows Trent’s experience as a little girl from Rhodesia whose dreams exceeded the world around her, a world where girls became wives and mothers with little opportunity to do much more. Yearning to have a different life, Trent taught herself to read and write with her brother’s schoolbooks and to count while watching cattle graze. Trent details how she scribbled her dreams of going to America to attend college on scraps of paper that she stored in a can to remind of how she would accomplish her goal of one day returning home to educate the children in her village.
Trent said it was important to her to help children discuss their dreams at an early age.
“I wanted to inspire children to start thinking about their dreams rather than thinking of dreams when they are already adults. Dreams change. But it’s important to have them. They guide you, they make a foundation for you. Young kids’ minds are open and their innocence allows them the ability to write their dreams from their hearts,” said Trent.
As part of the reading, girls had the opportunity to write their own dreams down and place them in a can gifted along with a copy of Trent’s book in order to help them develop their own goals. Trent also guided goal planning discussions with select groups of students at each school. Trent also encouraged the girls to have pride in themselves, their culture and their communities.
Trent’s visits were part of the African American Success Initiative’s efforts to encourage and improve literacy among children of color in Dallas Independent School District.
AASI Director Regina Rice said the effort was not only focused on literacy, but the social and emotional development of children as well.
“Children who feel good about themselves and have high levels of self-confidence, tend to perform better in school, and so as they are being encouraged to read and being given a book to add to their home libraries, we are also helping girls understand that they are capable of any- and everything they can possibly dream of being,” said Rice. “Reading not only has tremendous power when it comes to fueling the development of all aspects of language ability, its importance to the entirety of a human life.”
AASI supports Dallas ISD feeder patterns with a high concentration of African American students with the goal of closing achievement gaps for students of color. The initiative focuses on academic support, student advocacy, cultural diversity, social and emotional learning, family involvement, community partnerships and other support services designed to improve student academic success and prepare students for college, career, and the workforce. The initiative currently supports 13 schools within the Wilmer-Hutchins and Carter feeder patterns.
For more on Trent’s “The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can,” go here.