Wanted: A reading brigade
I was simply overjoyed to see scores of Jamaicans in an orderly queue surging towards the LOGOS/Hope which is currently docked at the Cement Company Pier and will remain there for most of March.
This is a ship that spreads knowledge by providing positive reading material, music, videos, toys and gift items at reasonable prices. Volunteers from 70 countries are on board this floating bookstore which has been sailing the world since 1970 to advance international cooperation and cultural understanding. The current vessel has only been in service for a year and already, it has visited 23 ports in 18 countries.
My joy was multiplied when I saw the vast number of small children and teenagers who felt browsing through rows and rows of books was an interesting way to pass their weekend. Featured on this unique vessel are more than 6,000 books that cover subjects such as sports, health, hobbies, business and religion. Children's texts, reference books and novelties are also included.
Developing lifelong readers
People were not just browsing they were genuinely interested in making selections and buying books. I want to applaud the parents who took their children to the book fair for they truly understand that they are, in fact, helping to develop lifelong readers. They understand further that one of the best gifts they can ever pass on to their children is one which enables them to develop the skills of reading and comprehension.
In our present multi-networked world, cable television provides the bulk of family entertainment, and reading is being gradually squeezed out of leisure activity. I was therefore very encouraged to see that books still had the ability to capture the minds of the young.
Voracious reader that I am, I think that notwithstanding the many ways to absorb information and glean knowledge today, books remain the best choice. The key to improving Jamaica's level of literacy lies in encouraging the reading habit, for this ultimately leads to more critical thinking as the reader must apply new knowledge to his every day circumstance.
Brigade of volunteer readers
Corporate Jamaica understands the importance of this because workplace illiteracy can place an entire company at risk. It is for this reason that I want to suggest the establishment of a brigade of volunteer readers all across Jamaica.
This group of professionals would volunteer time and read to students under the teacher's supervision. One is aware that making improvements in a child's literacy is a small step in his educational development and that this has to be followed by practical application in engaging with a text. A small but important step, I may add.
I think such a programme would work best in inner city and rural communities, and could involve the church as well youth groups and other organizations concerned about lifting people out of poverty.
Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Send your comments to email@example.com