Message from Dr Patricia Saul
President of the Barbados Association of Reading
on the occasion of
International Literacy Day 2009
The celebration of International Literacy Day affords the Barbados Association of Reading (BAR) a splendid opportunity to highlight the important role which literacy plays in the development of individuals and nations. At a time when the UNESCO statistics on literacy suggest that there are still 776 million illiterate adults in the world and 75 million children who are out of school, Barbados celebrates universal access for all of its children to education from the nursery to tertiary levels. Additionally, in spite of the lament that our standard of literacy is falling nationally, we can still claim to have one of the highest literacy rates in the developing world.?? However, while we observe these achievements, we cannot rest on our laurels because the face of literacy is constantly changing, and with every new development in society, new literacies are being created.?? Hence, the quest to acquire literacy skills must be on-going.
The Theme for International Literacy Day 2009, "Literacy and Empowerment," alludes to the transforming power of literacy education.?? Those persons and societies that have pulled themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps have been those that have invested time and energy in developing literacy skills. It is literacy education which has helped to move individuals, families, and nations from poverty and suppression to the heights of wealth and assertiveness.?? When free education was instituted in this country, it opened the door for all persons to leap out of the colonial shackles of low self esteem fueled by illiteracy, to feelings of?? pride and a spirit of determination to grasp every opportunity to maximize potential, not only for the good of the individual, but for the development of this nation.
However, the fight is not over. There is a sense in which the impression is being given that we have arrived, and that the struggle against illiteracy is over.?? This is a serious myth which is likely to lure us into a position of false security.?? When school leavers are unable to meet the literacy demands of the workplace, the struggle against illiteracy is not over.?? When the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, the Chief Education Officer, the Chief Justice of Barbados, and numerous newspaper columnists continue to speak about the falling standard of reading and writing nationally, the struggle against illiteracy is not over.?? When for so many of our nation’s children, reading is not an attractive past-time or a preferred activity, the struggle against illiteracy is not over.?? When there are homes in this country which are devoid of reading materials with which children can interact, the struggle against illiteracy is not over.?? In fact, with the continuous development of our society, and the increased emphasis on critical thinking skills, this is a time when the fight against illiteracy must be accelerated.
It must be a united fight in which the home, school, and community come together to do battle.?? Homes must launch the first attack with a return to those child-rearing practices which foster literacy skills. Children begin to emerge as literate beings from the time that they are born. Therefore, parents must recognize their role in building their children’s foundation in literacy. The school must further the fight through activities which would build on those competencies started in the home.?? Daily reading and writing by children must be restored to the prominence which they once held in our schools. Teachers themselves must be the epitome of what it means to be truly literate so that our students have models to which they can aspire.?? The community too must join in the fray.?? Members of the community need to foster a culture of literacy.?? Community groups must include the development as literacy skills as one of their objectives so that activities such as public speaking, debates, spelling competitions, book clubs, and writing are part of their regular programmes. On the whole, adults in the community need to demonstrate that literacy is critical to their everyday life so that children do not see reading and writing as skills related to school alone.
So, as we in Barbados pause to celebrate International Literacy Day 2009, the Barbados Association of Reading (BAR) makes a clarion call for all and sundry in our country to renew their commitment to literacy and lifelong learning.?? Mere rhetoric is not enough.?? The time is right for decisive action from the home, school, and the community. BAR stands ready and willing to assist where ever our services are requested.?? Happy Literacy Day!