Features — 15 September 2015 — by Johnelle McKenzie
Ministry of Education’s national literacy strategy

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Sept. 11, 2015–The Ministry of Education has been focusing its efforts on making Belize more literate and has come up with a method to tackle the problem — a national literacy strategy. John Newport, Acting Director of Quality Assurance Development Service (Quads), said that the program targets children from birth to the completion of primary school.  He added that a campaign to encourage families to read aloud to their children is a part of the strategy. The campaign has been extended to include adults, teachers, and the interactions between older siblings and younger siblings, and parents and their children.

         On September 8, International Literacy Day, the literacy campaign was launched at the BTL Park.  The theme for the Literacy Day was “Read to a Child Today and Every Day”.   At the launch of the campaign, 10 tents were set up, where members of the community were reading to the children.  Some of the readers were Alma Paredez, a literacy officer, who read to Queen Street Baptist School students; Leroy Green, an artist, performer and social organizer, who read to James Garbutt SDA school students; Minister of Education Patrick Faber, who read to Ephesus School students; Michael Shaw, of Scotia Bank Belize, who read to Calvary Temple School students; and Shakira Tsai, of Belize Bank, who read to Trinity Methodist School students.

        Michael Shaw of Scotiabank took the opportunity to present 400 books to the Ministry of Education that were collected through the bank’s book drive. He said that reading to the children went across very well and he looks forward to having other initiatives which can be conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Education, since education is a priority for the bank too.

       Expressing a similar sentiment, Shakira Tsai of Belize Bank said that the bank is a supporter of education and the development of young minds and the bank was delighted to participate with the Ministry of Education on this new initiative. She went on to say that education is a lifelong commitment and pointed out that the bank does its part through their scholarship program for students attending high school and sixth form.

        Newport said, “The literacy campaign aim is not so much what happens within the schools, but what happens at home.  There is a lot of research that says what happens in the home has a strong impact on how well children learn to read.”   Therefore, the Ministry of Education through the campaign hopes to change the culture in the home so that reading to a child becomes a normal part of the family routine.

        In recent years, much assistance has been offered by businesses and non-governmental organizations to our children, but parents’ interest in their children’s learning is essential.   Studies have shown that when parents get involved in their child’s learning the child’s self-esteem, school attendance, and grades improve.  Literacy skills are the foundation upon which children build a broader base of knowledge that enables them develop their skills, attitudes and values in order to function at their best in society and contribute to sustainable development.

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