Dwayne Reed leverages viral ‘Welcome to the 4th Grade’ video to impact students
Chicago-based student teacher Dwayne Reed celebrated the viral success of his “Welcome to the 4th Grade” music video by assigning himself homework.
“Welcome to the 4th Grade” has amassed 948,000 views on YouTube in less than a month and attracted coverage from a multitude of news outlets including Good Morning America, The Associated Press and The Huffington Post. Game shows, school principles and an author have reached out to him about opportunities.
Reed could’ve taken advantage of this attention to spark a music career. Instead, his self-assigned homework is leveraging his growing platform to obtain books for students.
“We’re trying to get as many books as we can donated to children who are under-resourced, underprivileged, who don’t necessarily have access to books or books that represent them well,” Reed told Rapzilla. “No offense, but you see a lot of books about a small, little, nice white boy with a dog, and Jamal who’s reading that can’t necessarily identify with that. He wants to identify with, ‘I went to go hoop with my homies, and it was a great time.’ … We want to see ourselves represented in books.”
I'm looking to get a wide-range of books into the hands of underprivileged kids in Chicago.
Who can help?
— Dwayne Reed (@TeachMrReed) August 26, 2016
Reed couldn’t remember reading one book about a black boy as a child. He explained that this lack of representation carries a consequence.
“Not seeing someone you can look up to,” he said. “The only time I see a black person is on the news when they’re in trouble or there’s something negative attached to it? That’s not a good role model. That’s not someone I aspire to be. I want to aspire to be the kid who saves the town, saves the dog, gets the girl, succeeds at what they’re doing. I want to see eight-year-old kids doing that in the books that I’m reading as an eight-year-old.”
Reed’s motivation to obtain books, as well as to work in education, is to inspire the next generation to become leaders.
“I don’t necessarily know what I want to do,” he said, “but I know I want to impact the lives of whatever students I come into contact with. I want them to leave feeling empowered, whether that be leave my classroom, whether that be leaving my school if I’m a principle, whether it be leaving my community if I’m just some small-time teacher in that community … I want them to leave knowing they can go on and be great. I want the little black and brown kids to see me and say, ‘Wow, he’s successful. He’s helping others. I want to do that.’ That’s my end-goal.”
His end-goal, to the dismay of his fans, is not a career in music.
Reed’s artistic talent earned him a spot in Rapzilla’s 2016 freshman class among the most promising emcees in Christian hip hop. But he’s more passionate about belonging to another class — at school.
“I would much rather have one child go on to succeed after being under my tutelage than drop a double-platinum album,” he said.
And while Reed is using his newfound clout to acquire books, he’s content to inspire students away from the spotlight.
“If I never make another song … I don’t care,” he said. “I’ll be happy knowing that I’m living a quiet life for God’s glory, and it doesn’t have to involve making music.”