Highlights — 21 September 2018 — by Courtney Menzies
SMART commissions book to promote reading in students

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Sept. 18, 2018– The telecommunications company, SMART, is giving back to the community by commissioning the production of  a children’s book designed to motivate kids to put down their electrical devices and read instead. The book, Do The Smart Thing, was launched yesterday at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza.

According to Adelaide Sabido, public relations representative from SMART, they wanted to collaborate with different organizations which are involved in improving literacy among students in Belize. They also wanted to find a fun avenue to motivate students to want to read more.

Sabido said that there was much discussion before they selected the authors and the illustrator of the book. They chose teachers from Holy Redeemer school because of the high profile of the school in the media at the time, and there are English teachers at the school who have been there for decades and who know the weaknesses that students are facing in the Language Arts curriculum.

As for the illustrator, SMART sourced a past student from St. John’s College, which is one of the few educational institutions in the country that has an art program. Art teacher Kirkland Smith recommended that Cleveland Staine do the illustrations.

Do the Smart Thing contains 2 short stories. The first one, written by Ana Wong and Julia Moore, both teachers at Holy Redeemer Primary School, is called “Smart is Awesome.” It revolves around a character named Maria Smart who grows up in a rural community where the norm is to work in a cane field rather than go to school. Sabido notes that this is something still common in certain areas.

In the story, Maria Smart goes against the norm and pursues her education and becomes a professional. She is then able to incite change in the members of her community to do the same.

The second story, “The Smart Thing to do,” is written by Mary Mejia, another teacher from Holy Redeemer Primary School. The target audience for this story is younger students, primarily in the infant division, and it speaks about 3 characters that skip school. These characters go on an adventure but after a series of unfortunate events they realize how important it is to go to school.

The story explores the characters’ poor choices and the consequences of these, as well as the topic of bullying.

Sabido told us that SMART hopes that these stories will inspire students to write — providing them with the motivation because they have the talent and the imagination.

SMART plans to do a book tour around the country to make the book accessible to as many schools as possible before it goes on sale. They also shared copies with the National Library Association, which promised to share copies of the book with 49 libraries across the country.

SMART hopes that by next year they will be able to amalgamate stories written by students from different schools in order to create another book. SMART says there is still much work to put into this initiative,  but they hope to be able to showcase the works of students.

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