KINGSTON — It was an exciting day at the New Providence Primary School in St. Andrew, as wife of the Governor-General, Her Excellency the Most Hon. Lady Allen, officially launched the Western Union National Reading Week 2011 on Monday (April 4).
Students, teachers, politicians, business leaders, journalists and other public figures turned out in their numbers for the official start to what is expected to be a week of learning, reading, entertainment and education.
National Reading Week is one component of the I P.L.E.D.G.E programme for education, organised each year by Western Union with Lady Allen serving as its official patron.
The programme, which is in its eighth consecutive year, will be observed from April 4 to 8 in schools across the island, under the theme: ‘Today’s Readers; Tomorrow’s Leaders’. Public figures and other members of civil society will be visiting schools across the island to read to the students and to donate books to school libraries.
At the launch on Monday, Lady Allen, who was a teacher for 18 years, said that the more children are involved in reading the better they will become at problem solving and the more they will be able to develop their analytical skills.
She told the students the story of American neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has given much credit for his academic success to his love for books and reading. She said that Carson went from being in the bottom of his class to becoming the brightest boy in his school and now one of the leading surgeons in the United States by following his mother’s early instructions of reading two books a week.
“I want to encourage you boys and girls that where you are from does not determine who you are going to be, but it is what you have inside of you – your self-esteem, your self-worth – that is going to propel you to become what you want to become,” she stated.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, GraceKennedy Ltd., Douglas Orane, who informed that his executive team will be visiting with and reading to children at the Salvation Army School for the Blind and the Danny William School for the Deaf, said his company fully supports the plan by the transformation team at the Ministry of Education to achieve universal literacy at the primary level by 2015.
The move, he said, along with the pronouncement that “no child will enter secondary school without being able to read, is one which Jamaica needs not only to hear, but to act on,” he stated.
“We do believe that it is our responsibility to step in and present them with the right influences in an effort to make a greater impact on their development,” Mr. Orane stated, while encouraging the students to, “reach for the stars and be the best that you can be.”
The other major components of the I PLEDGE programme 2011 includes English and debating competitions for primary school students; the continuation of the schools computerisation programme; and the school community project.
Managing Director, GraceKennedy Money Services, Jean Marie Powell said the English competition will take place at centres across the island on Wednesday, April 20 and a national champion will be crowned at the prize giving ceremony on Wednesday, June 8.
The top eight schools in the English competition will participate in the debating series, which will take place in May at GraceKennedy’s head offices downtown Kingston. The preliminary rounds will be held on May 16; the semi-finals on May 20 and the grand finals on May 27.
Additionally, through the schools computerisation programme, GraceKennedy Ltd., in partnership with Western Union International will donate some $9 million in sponsorship funds to computerise several schools across the island. Meanwhile, one institution will get a facelift under the school community project.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter