‘Make reading important family activity’
--Advises National Library Committee Chairman
By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
April 24, 2003

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CHAIRMAN of the Committee of the National Library, Ms. Carmen Jarvis, is urging parents to make reading a very important part of the activities to be shared between parents and children in the home.

Noting that children are constantly taking example from what they see, Ms. Jarvis observed that if young children see their parents doing the right things, they would do likewise.

The Chairman is therefore calling on parents to spend more time reading in the home, and to emphasise the value of reading, and the value of books.

Placing a very high premium on reading, Mrs. Jarvis admonished parents to make it their duty to read to their children, as well as to have the children read to them in the home, by which means they (parents) can help the children to become fluent readers.

The Secretary General of the UNESCO Commission in Guyana made these remarks while addressing a gathering of parents at a Literacy Seminar held at the National Library Conference Room yesterday. The forum, held under the theme: “Creating Reading Awareness in the Home”, was in observance of “World Book and Copyright Day” yesterday.

Sponsored with the objective of encouraging reading and promoting literacy, the seminar was organised by the National Library in collaboration with the National Centre for Education Research and Development (NCERD) of the Ministry of Education.

The participants were primarily the mothers of members of the Juvenile Department of the National Library, which is headed by Ms. Merle James. Facilitator was Ms. Barbara Roberts-Sam, representative of NCERD.

Highlighting the value of books, Ms. Jarvis noted that books are “storehouses of knowledge”, and inform us a great deal.

“We read them for schooling, medical things, recipes, to learn about our culture and the advances in technology - everything that is a part of our well being. We must therefore, unceasingly ensure the success of the book industry on which we depend,” she stressed.

Ms Jarvis told the gathering of keenly interested parents that whatever form books may take - from the most traditional to the most innovative -- they offer us now, more than ever an irreplaceable medium of information and education. She added, “Without books we are lost.”

The Chairman bemoaned the fact that notwithstanding the importance of such a skill or technique it is not one of the things taught in schools.

Noting that very often the influence parents have on children is underestimated she took pains to emphasise the role that parents can play in their children’s lives.

She observed that while persons are trained to be teachers, doctors, lawyers and a host of other things, persons are not being trained to be parents, a very great task.

Jarvis alluded to the situation in which many young persons becoming parents lack the ability to effectively perform such a task. She expressed the view that some mechanism should be put in place to effectively address this problem.

“We need to train persons… we need to have some sort of guidance so that young people would know what its expected of them when they become parents,” Jarvis urged.

Meanwhile, Ms. Roberts-Sam, who went through practical sessions with the parents, was of the view that teaching a child to write would help him to read as well.

She submitted that work done in school should be reinforced with homework, adding that this gives children time for study and practice.

Favouring moments of ‘quiet study’ for the children, Roberts-Sam said it is important to set a time for homework, and to provide a quiet place where children can work.

“Remember to keep on top of your child’s work and stay in touch with your child’s teacher,” she admonished.

And touching briefly on television, Ms Roberts-Sam cautioned that parents should set a limit on television watching and replace it with quality reading time.

“When television is permitted, follow it with family discussions,” she advised.

Ms Jarvis, who gave a background to “World Book and Copyright Day” said that it was first observed in 1997 and had been introduced to encourage reading and promote literacy. It was introduced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), an intellectual arm of the United Nations. UNESCO promotes literacy, and its main thrust is education. It also promotes Science and Technology, Culture and Communication.

Jarvis recalled that in Spain, on such a day (usually celebrated on April 23 each year), the young were given a book and a rose since it was also the birth anniversary of William Shakespeare, one of the world’s most influential authors.

She explained that Copyright is a Legislation that protects authors so that they can reap the benefits of their own creativity.

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