International Literacy Day 2011 message by the Minister of Education

Around the world September 8 is being celebrated as UNESCO’s International Literacy Day under the theme ‘Literacy for Peace’. We have made literacy a policy priority in the Ministry of Education and I join with UNESCO Secretary General Irina Bokova in urging our schools to make literacy a priority in practice, “so that every individual can develop their potential, and actively participate in shaping more sustainable, just and peaceful societies”. ‘Literacy for Peace’ is particularly relevant to Jamaica, which sadly is known for having one of the highest rates of violence in the world. As the 2011/2012 school year gets underway let us make it the most peaceful one yet by encouraging discussion over discord, tolerance over anger and calm over chaos.

Reading is fundamental – to life and to living. The importance of reading and developing a love of books from a young age cannot be overstated. The Ministry of Education is working hard to promote a love of reading from as early as possible, because we need our children to enter primary schools as emergent readers. Internationally research has shown that there is a 90% probability that a child who is a poor reader in the first grade will be a poor reader in the fourth grade and we want to break that trend and break it now.

Through our policies, and the support we provide, the Ministry of Education continues to emphasize the early development of literacy skills, implementing various initiatives that give attention to emergent, developmental, corrective and remedial facets of literacy instruction. In addition, we want all our teachers to not only encourage and model good reading habits at school, but to also reach out to our parents and help them to do the same at home. We encourage every Jamaican to join the Jamaica Library Service and become regular visitors to the country’s strong network of parish, branch, school and mobile libraries. We encourage all of our principals and school boards to support their school libraries.

As we enter this new school year we plan to continue maximizing all of our resources to help our teachers and parents make exploring books with children a regular activity. We intend to continue encouraging them to use reading as a way of fostering the development of higher order critical and creative thinking skills.

We need children when they read to be guided to think and reflect on the book examined, to look closely at the pictures and identify things they recognize, note things they have never seen before and ask questions, make predictions and, importantly, be able to explain why they liked the book or why they did not like it.

Last but not least, we want our children to enjoy books because reading is above all, fun.

Find a book today, read and enjoy.