Sat | Sep 23, 2017

40 Years Later ... - Literacy expert returns to fulfil promise

Published:Saturday | June 3, 2017 | 6:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Penny Doherty says that there is no such thing as someone being incapable of performing.

When she visited Jamaica in the '70s, Penny Doherty, promised herself that she would return to the island, to assist with improving educational outcomes in Jamaica.

Some 40 years later, the president of Penny Doherty Literacy Consultants Incorporated, is currently in Jamaica, holding discussions with the education ministry and other stakeholders, finding ways to introduce her literacy programme, which targets students 'with learning differences'.

The Canadian native is among nine other business owners in Jamaica, who, through the Centre for Women in Business based in Canada, are seeking opportunities to export their services, in addition to finding ways to assist with specific development issues that exist in the country.

Doherty, in an interview with The Gleaner, said that with a 96 per cent success rate among males who were introduced to her programme, she believes her initiative can result in Jamaica being a model country for the rest of the world. Her passion is also driven by the fact that her son also struggled with 'a serious learning problem'.

"I have a son who had a serious learning problem, which could have ruined his life but he is a successful young man today," she declared.

"I opened a school when my son was established in his life, I educated more than 300 students and everyone of them was successful. Everyone was failing when they came," she continued.

Commending Jamaica on its renewed focus on the early childhood sector, she stressed the importance of teachers and policymakers, finding ways of ensuring that students comprehension skills are developed.

'Not capable ... There's no such thing!'

"I have put together a programme that can be used for about an hour a day in the classroom, anywhere in the English speaking world. I did a lot of research on this and I am now ready for export," she said.

"My programme targets reading comprehension. If we see a modest increase in the mark with the group that we are targeting (in Jamaica), then that's evidence that the programme can work. Hopefully, we will be able to start training, maybe in the teachers' colleges and have Jamaica as a model to the world. That's my goal," she told The Gleaner.

Doherty added, "The aim is to target ages 11 and 12. If the students are not passing those tests it means they are not reading with meaning."

She also had a word of advice for parents of children with learning disabilities

"He (her son) was brought up with love and so I believe that love and instilling in your children what's right and wrong and making them feel that they have been given gifts, works. There is no such thing like persons not being capable," she charged.