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The race to literacy - make it a habit

Published:Monday | March 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Andre Hardy, senior library assistant at the East Street Junior Centre, reads a book to students participating in the 2008 summer workshops. - File

Emma Dalton-Brown, Gleaner Writer

My baby boy is surrounded by numerous children's books, which have been given to him by friends and family. My intention is for literature to be a regular part of his everyday life. Reading should not simply be a hobby, but also a habit.

This sentiment is shared by Deika Morrison, who says that her first choice of gift for a child is a Dr Seuss book. "That is my absolute favourite. I remember to this day the images, the words, the rhymes and the lessons. Dr Seuss made me love reading. I am sure of it." Deika told me that she has always been a reader because, "when I was growing up, my parents were either reading or studying. I thought it was a very grown-up thing to do, and of course, who doesn't want to act like a grown-up when they are a kid?"

Deika is an intellectual, not to mention a highly motivated woman, who has degrees in environmental systems and finance from the University of Pennsylvania, her master's in engineering science from Harvard, and her MBA from The Wharton School (UPenn). Her past job experiences include being a senator and minister of the state for the Government of Jamaica; and, more recently, she was the chief research officer at Jamaica National Building Society. Seven months ago, she embarked on a new project, co-founding Mdk Advisory & Consulting Limited, where she is managing director.

Very humble

Despite these achievements (and let's face it, they are huge), you will never see Deika behaving in a superior way. A humanitarian at heart, she says: "I have always been motivated to serve. For everything I have achieved, I have a greater obligation to help others. That was how I was raised. We all have to help each other." Deika is a member of the Rotary Club of Kingston, which promotes truth, fairness, goodwill and better friendships, and strives to be beneficial to all concerned. If you know her personally, this sums her up. She refuses to ignore the problems in Jamaica, and strongly believes that they "are fixable with creativity and participation".

It is no wonder that Deika has been driven to address our country's literary crisis, and hearing of the 2008 record for the most number of books donated in one week, set by Rotarians during the International Convention in Los Angeles, she decided to ignite the 'Rotary Race to Literacy' book drive. She thinks it is, "a nice way to get people interested in literacy and provide some much needed books at the same time ... . We became aware of the dire need for books when we were informed of the library's reading programmes that were severely challenged by the lack of books, especially for children." There is a District 7020 Conference in May, and Deika and fellow Rotarians were looking for a service project in which all countries could participate. They decided that the host country, Jamaica, and the country most in need, Haiti, would be the beneficiaries.

The altruist that she is, Deika insists that special attention must be paid to improving the literacy in Jamaica, and that we can all get involved. The current record for the most books donated in a week is 242,624.

The primary recipient of the books will be the Jamaica Library Service, which is the best custodian of the books in the long term, has its own reading programmes, and is accessible to all persons daily. This means that I shall be able to take my son to borrow books from our local library whenever I like, ensuring that reading becomes a habit, not just a hobby.