Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
Dr Aileen M. Williams-Allison, principal of the Shebian Preparatory School in Portland, is on a quest to provide the young and elderly with the opportunity of learning to read and ultimately, to become avid readers.
For the last 10 years, Williams-Allison has been toying with the idea of how to get illiterate persons to read. She said she realised that most young person and adults, though unable to read or identify words, were reluctant to come forward and openly disclose their deficiency for fear of embarrassment and ridicule from society.
"It had to be done with careful consultation and consideration," commented Williams-Allison.
She added: "At school, we had the 'Friendly Phonics' programme, which was conceptualised by us to enhance the reading abilities of students, beginning at the kindergarten level. 'Friendly Phonics' allowed students to identify letters, pronounce letter sounds, learn about vowels and consonants, and to break down words into syllables. It has worked wonders for our students, and it was then that I took the decision to do a somewhat similar application, which I believe would be the key for those that are unable to read."
Williams-Allison pointed out that with the school located in the depressed community of Breast Works, more had to be done in reaching out to residents and in providing help for persons with reading and learning deficiencies. She said such an opportunity would allow the residents to develop a positive attitude about themselves and be better able to communicate with each other.
Out of this concern, 'Friendly Phonics,' "a new approach to reading", a Read Along Jamaica (RAJ) DVD, was compiled with 12 volumes. Williams-Allison said the approach would greatly assist individuals in their quest for learning. She said persons would be taught in stages all the way up to Volume 12, at which time, they should have mastered the basics of reading.
Williams-Allison noted that the programme allows for privacy and persons can, therefore, learn on their own time in the privacy of their own homes without having to face any form of embarrassment.
She added: "The DVDs are approximately one hour long, and persons can sit at home and insert it into their DVD player or computer and learn from the excerpts. They can sit and watch for probably 10 minutes, take a break to go to the bathroom or get a snack, and come right back to the DVD. I have had persons in their 60s and 70s coming to me and revealing that they are unable to read.
"This DVD presents persons seeking a driver's licence, who are unable to sign documents for themselves, unable to read letters or other important documents, and are literally unable to recognise or identify words, with an opportunity to learn to read."