??Samples of Comprehension Workbook Level II for students aged 5-7 years, launched on Sunday at the Savannah Hotel. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Comprehension skills have been described as critical for life by this island’s Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones.

This was made clear yesterday as the Minister addressed the launch of Infant Comprehension books for the five to seven age group, by Pelican Learning Inc., at the Savannah Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church.

Speaking to an audience of largely teachers and principals, Mr. Jones, said: "I strongly believe that the development of strategies for reading is the critical link to enhance comprehension and is a strong factor in our educational and professional lives. In other words, what we do at our schools or in our homes is all part and parcel of learning."

The Minister also noted that with respect to comprehension skills, too many children spent time decoding words without gaining an understanding of their context. He added, "Our young readers must be able to bridge the gap between recognising letters and words – essential skills in themselves – to examining characters and contexts and making connections to their lives. Comprehension is pivotal to active reading. For many, reading comprehension also unlocks the door to a lifetime of reading recreation and enjoyment."

Conceding, however, that the task was not easy, he stressed it required teachers to see books as coexisting with modern technologies such as the IPod, PS3, TST, GameCube, Wii, and the X-box. "Parents and others would, however, do well to inspire the habit of reading in children from a very young age by using reading

as an opportunity for family interaction, discussion and uplifting experiences," the Minister suggested.??????

It was also acknowledged that adults who could not read ran the risks of becoming isolated from society and Mr. Jones observed: "Illiteracy affects their ability to find jobs, their self-esteem and ultimately their very survival. It is, therefore, important to expose young children to print rich environments as early as possible and Pelican Learning Inc. has done that."

While he challenged the company to also develop some books for three to five year olds, he pointed out that teachers themselves needed to make reading fun by helping young readers to explore text in a meaningful way. He urged them not to become annoyed by a loud classroom, as "many of our children are turned off from learning because it is too stiff and the classroom too quiet."

Meanwhile, writer with Pelican Learning Inc, Shannah Daisley-Forde, said their aim was to produce literacy resources and develop a range of text books and other materials for Barbados and the region.?? Giving the rationale for the targeted group, she noted, research had shown only two books of this nature and hence indicated "a need" and "market space".??

Explaining that the books were totally indigenous, she remarked, "We have to start appreciating our own. We made sure there was a Barbadian slant… there is even the focus on the ZR in one text. We want our children to understand, respond to and enjoy what they read to move them from the stage of calling words to understanding." (JG/BGIS)


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