Barbados Community College Tutor and Co-ordinator of the inaugural Reading Clinic for boys, Dr. Astra Babb, has called for the re-opening of the Alma Parris School to cater to a growing number of students with reading and other learning challenges.
Speaking at the closing ceremony for the four-week camp this morning, Dr. Babb implored Minister of the Environment and National Beautification, Trevor Prescod, who delivered the feature address, to urge his Cabinet colleagues to re-open the doors of the Speightstown, St. Peter school, which was closed last year.
The clinic was held at the Barbados Community College and catered to boys transitioning from primary to secondary school, who need to enhance their reading and comprehension skills.
“Teaching the boys to read was a gruelling task, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. This free reading clinic sought to address what can be called a national concern. It has clearly identified that many of our young men have challenges in reading effectively. The four-week interaction with the students clearly indicated that the boys would like to become competent readers and that well-structured remedial programmes should be put in place to rescue those who fall behind…
“I think the Government of Barbados needs to reopen the Alma Parris School for our weak students. I think the programme of the Alma Parris School should be structured specifically to meet the needs of the children who go to that school. It should not be the same syllabus as we find in the other secondary schools because these children have special needs. The school should be staffed by specialist teachers,” Dr. Babb stated.
During the four weeks, she said the boys were taught word recognition techniques and structural analysis, phonemic awareness, critical thinking and reinforcement, and how to spell, among other techniques. They also received counselling sessions from a trained counsellor, and members of the Barbados Defence Force conducted weekly sessions to teach the boys discipline.
Dr. Babb said that some of them have shown a marked improvement in their reading and comprehension skills, while others still need a lot of help.
While not specifically addressing the re-opening of Alma Parris School, Mr. Prescod lauded Dr. Babb for conceptualising the idea of The Reading Clinic and bringing it to fruition. He said reading was crucial to an individual’s personal development and success.
“Without the ability to read and my love for reading, I would not be here today speaking to you on the importance of reading. It is critical that the ability to read is not seen only as strictly an academic pursuit, but as a life skill and a contributor to problem solving. All the reports of criminology have demonstrated that the majority of children or young people who enter into prison are those who had a very poor academic development. There’s the argument that if your child can read he or she rarely gets in trouble with the law. The research also indicates that in general, the lower the reading comprehension rate, the more violent the behaviour. You can’t reason,” Mr. Prescod stated.
He pointed out that teachers could not do it alone, but it would take a collaborative effort from parents and society to foster a love of reading in the nation’s youth. The Environment Minister said the National Library Service had a number of programmes which encouraged reading from an early age.
He added that catering to boys was necessary because they were the ones falling through the cracks. “Dr. Babb knows that there is a challenge in our society and that challenge relates to our young males. The empirical evidence at the prison, quantitatively shows that. At the University of the West Indies, the evidence shows that there are more females than males. There are more males, by far, in our prison system than females.
“Dr. Babb, I want to thank you very much for the work that you are doing and I want to thank [Principal of the Barbados Community College] Dr. Weekes for providing these facilities. To the boys, I want you to keep sharpening your reading skills, so that one day I can say that I remember this young man who participated in this Reading Clinic and look how successful he is now,” Mr. Prescod said.