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JIS News

At least 100 parents are expected to benefit from the first phase of a BOOKSTART Jamaica pilot project, which is currently underway at the Maxfield Park Health Clinic in Kingston, and is scheduled to begin at the Morant Bay Health Centre in St. Thomas, by early August.
The disclosure was made by Senior Adviser to the Minister of Education, Dr. Rebecca Tortello, in an interview with JIS News.
“The project will unfold in a few phases. In the first phase, we are piloting in two clinics, one urban and one rural, Maxfield Park Health Clinic in Kingston and the Morant Bay Health Centre in St. Thomas, and we are asking the health services to partner with us to give out the pilot bags. There are 100 bags in the pilot phase, which has now started,” Dr. Tortello explained, noting that the bags contain a variety of information for parents.
“Inside the bags you will find a children’s book, information about the family reading programme that is run at the Tom Redcam Library of the Jamaica Library Service (JLS), and information about why it is important to read with your babies and keep reading with them as they grow older,” she explained.
According to the Senior Adviser, the second phase would begin in January next year and will target at least six parishes.
“We want to give bags to parents in those parishes where the JLS is expanding their family reading circle programme. The JLS intends to expand it to six other parishes, so we will be working with the clinics in those parishes to give out bags,” Dr. Tortello said. She added that the parents would be monitored and evaluated after the bags have been distributed.
Dr. Tortello pointed out that preparations have commenced for a full roll out of the BOOKSTART Jamaica project island wide in 2012.
“We are aiming for January 2012 or May, if we have any hitches, because 2012 is the 50th anniversary of our independence and we have roughly 50,000 births a year and we are hoping to produce 50,000 bags with our Bookstart logo,” she said.
In the meantime, the Senior Adviser explained that it is her hope that the distribution of the book bags would heighten the interest in reading and create emergent readers among the students entering grade one.
“We hope that the receipt of the bags will spur greater interest in reading and sharing stories. We want to encourage a love of books and stories, giving books as presents, valuing books in the home, because we really need our children to enter grade one, when we start formal schooling, as emergent readers, which will save us a lot of time and resources in the school system,” she said.
Persons who are interested in assisting the initiative are being asked to contact the Ministry of Education at 922-1400.
Conceptualised by the Ministry as the flagship project of the soon-to-be established National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC), in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the BOOKSTART pilot uses donated materials, including eco-bags by the Sandals Foundation and books from local publishers, Jackmandora and LMH Publishing.