Students of the Hilda Skeene Primary School received a treat on Wednesday as they were among the first students to receive copies of the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) newest interactive publication "Sticks and Stones".

The class three and four pupils were participating in the Kiwanis Club of Barbados Central’s Reading Fest at the King George V Memorial Park in St. Philip.

"Sticks and Stones", written by Katy Gash and produced by the GIS HIV and AIDS Committee, centres around the character Anthony, who is shunned by his peers because of his perceived HIV status.

Chairperson of the BGIS Committee, Esther Jones, explained that the book focused on the issue of stigmatisation and discrimination and how it can affect the individual, family and community.

She hoped that children reading the book and using the CD-ROM would have a better understanding of the dangers of spreading rumours and the importance of treating everyone with respect and care, including persons living with HIV.

"A major theme of Sticks and Stones is stigmatisation and discrimination and the danger of using words callously. It is important that persons learn how words can hurt and to be responsible for the things we say. We cannot be so insensitive when speaking about other people, especially as it may or may not relate to someone’s health," Ms. Jones remarked.

She revealed that the committee was also in the process of organising a school pilot programme for "Sticks and Stones" in September, which would focus on several primary schools across the island.

The community outreach by the Kiwanis was an opportunity for the BGIS Committee to further educate students about HIV and AIDS as well as to encourage them to read more.

Committee member, Paula Harper, was also on hand to speak to the students and organised a brief reading session of "Sticks and Stones".

According to her, the response was quite positive. "The children enjoyed reading the book and the interactive sessions were well received. They were very excited and we encouraged them to speak about these issues with their parents or guardians. These children are our future, and hopefully, through projects such as this, we can develop a more tolerant society where everyone is treated with respect and care," she concluded.

Author: Andr?? Skeete

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