AT 7:20 every morning, all students at The Queen's School, St Andrew, has to participate in the DEAR initiative.
The project, Drop Everything And Read, is one of the many factors principal Jennifer Williams believes has contributed to impressive performances in internal and external examinations for the last year.
Speaking with The Gleaner following the 60th anniversary prize-giving and awards function, held at the school grounds last week, Williams said The Queen's School has seen improvement in all subject areas and students development.
The school boasts a 100 per cent pass rate in all vocational subjects in the recent sitting of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations - a 15 per cent increase in mathematics, an increase in entries for the recent Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations and an overall five per cent increase in passes.
Williams noted that it is important that students grasp basic concepts of reading.
"What we have been doing since first form is to have smaller classes because we have understood, over time, that you can't wait 'til students get to third form to start preparing them. We have also dedicated an extra hour in third form, and fourth, to math and English, and we have been reaping the benefits," she said.
"The library statistics have improved because students are going there more often to get their work done, and the results are improving. Geography, English literature, history, religious education, have all improved because analytical skills are being groomed and students are reading more," Williams told The Gleaner.
AIMING FOR THE HIGHEST
"You must encourage your students to do well, as leaders, make every effort to improve reading skills and, as we progress as a school, we will be aiming for the highest and to excel even higher," she declared.
Jenni Campbell, past student of the institution, who was guest speaker at the event, recounted her journey as a student at the institution and encouraged students to persevere, despite the odds.
Pointing to the inter-secondary school girls' track and field championship in 1978, where The Queen's School emerged as champions. She noted that it was a rough period for the institution as the country had to endure the social challenges of the 1970s and the 1980 general election.
"When we talk about the 1970s, for most Jamaicans, it is a period of hardships, hopelessness, shortage of food and other resources. People were murdered for wearing one colour, as opposed to the other. Death and talk of dying in battle-worn communities were normal," she recalled.
"Many of us couldn't come to schools, and those who came had to be in classrooms that were locked up and properly bolted. However, even at the cross road of the 1970s, we could have stood up, faced the challenges, as ladies of The Queen's School did on that fateful day at the National Stadium, and shape our own destiny, however we wanted," Campbell told the gathering.
"There are many stories of great achievers who have come from abusive homes, some with backgrounds littered with tales of deprivation, girls who have suffered in unspeakable ways, but found solace, even for the eight hours we were here each day, and have triumphed. You can do it, too," Campbell added.