Reading is not outdated
Jamaica is usually very good at keeping pace with global trends and technological advances that are reshaping the way people dress and eat, and various other consumer habits.
Indeed, Jamaica has regularly joined with other nations, either through government ministries and departments or special-interest groups, to commemorate special days, aimed at raising awareness about important issues, from smoking to HIV/AIDS and many topics in-between.
So when World Read Aloud Day passed on May 4 without even a mention in the local media, or recognition by the Ministry of Education whose priority includes improving literacy, persons like Wayne Campbell were disappointed.
In a letter to the editor, Mr Campbell expressed disappointment that Jamaica, which is struggling with literacy and has a large group of students not reading at a proficient level, did not see it fit to join the 80 other countries around the world for Read Aloud Day, which aims to motivate children and adults to celebrate the power of words.
Many children and young adults spend recreational time before the television set these days, but they would do well to heed the words of the experts who say reading is a much more complex task for the brain than watching television.
Special days like Read Aloud enable teachers and parents to reinforce the importance of reading skills, for that capacity is what enables one to interpret and become engaged in the world. One of the lasting benefits of reading to children is the development of a greater aptitude for discovery and learning.
It seems to us that every such opportunity to focus on the written word should be heavily promoted across the length and breadth of our island.
It is clear that, without the ability to read, comprehend and interpret, the students of today, who will form the workforce of tomorrow, will not be able to compete for the better-paying jobs in science, engineering and technology.
Lamenting the lack of motivation for reading, especially among boys, Mr Campbell said this: "Disturbingly, boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued."
Noting that Jamaican males are struggling to deal with questions about their masculinity, he continued: "It is almost as if manhood and masculinity have been hijacked by a thug culture far removed from education." Mr Campbell is exhorting the nation to reclaim the Jamaican society, one book at a time.
While literacy-improvement strategies ought to be designed in the classrooms, it is as much the responsibility of parents and guardians to see that children are engaged in the reading habit. So even though Read Aloud Week came and went without any fanfare, reading with, and to, children should be a regular routine for parents in seeking to promote and encourage literacy. There is that book that may inspire your child to reach beyond his or her dreams.