A new campaign to get children more involved in reading was today launched at the St. Paul’s Primary School, with the island’s Education Minister lauding it as "an example of thinking outside the box".

The project, which takes the form of a bus with a theme and jingle called "Bus-Ting Into Literacy", was given full support by Minister Ronald Jones, who highlighted the importance of literacy.

Minister Jones said: "This bus has the capacity to teach, to cause you to learn and it is the type of vehicle that I support – the bus which causes you to learn, to develop knowledge and intellect and supplies you with the right attitude, the right levels of behaviours where decorum is part and parcel of what you do.

"And, as you come here to school, this bus doesn’t rock you, this doesn’t give you milkshakes. But, the vibrations that you are going to get will come from those of being exposed in the bus to the dynamics of learning and being literate. Teachers can’t do it all."

While pointing out that parents and the community also had a duty to ensure children were made literate, he said: "Let us embed ourselves in literacy; let us embed ourselves in learning. Let us throw out the shackles of those who are anti-intellectual; anti-learning. There are those who will tell you, you can learn on the streets, but that’s a different type of learning…

"That too has its place. But, within the formal construct and confines of formal delivery, there is a purpose and a goal to be achieved.?? That is why we spend approximately ??20 per cent of Government’s budget on education a year."

The Education Minister, who also holds responsibility for Human Resource Development, further acknowledged that literacy in every society, primitive or otherwise, was "absolutely important".?? As he stressed this was more so for complex societies, like Barbados, he added: "In education, in business, in the social dynamics of our reality, we have to know how to read, interpret, analyse and comprehend."????

Though he expressed satisfaction with the education system at all levels, Mr. Jones, however, called for more. He told teachers: "I want to see no student (unless severely challenged) getting less than 50 per cent in the 11+ exam, and you know who can do that – teachers and parents working together. We need to continue lifting the bar."

He spoke of teachers working extra hours and urged that this trend be continued with sponsors (such as Ionics Freshwater Ltd, who helped to retrofit the reading bus) and others in the community, volunteering "at least two hours" to assist with programmes at schools.

He also had some advice for children whom he urged to take care of the reading materials and not abuse "anything in their school".

Meanwhile, Principal, Sandra Small-Thompson, echoing similar sentiments called on parents to assist with their children’s reading. She stressed: "We want you to get on board the bus to literacy… get on board and read, read for yourself; read for your children; read with your children, the literacy stop is right here! It is taking on passengers. Stop the bus now! It has vacant seats. Get on board and read!"

The reading bus is the brainchild of teacher Andrea Cheltenham, who along with management and staff of the school took the concept from Wesley Hall School’s Library Bus and adapted it with the assistance of Ionics Freshwater Ltd.??jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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