Get back to reading
- Guyanese urged
Guyana Chronicle
December 7, 2003

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`People, and especially young people, spent a lot of time reading books and learning, but unfortunately, it appears as though we are losing the skills to read and the passion to read.’- Amerindian Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues
by Mark Ramotar

READING is one of life’s essential skills and fostering literacy not only in the early years, but also throughout life, is essential in shaping a strong future for our families and communities.

This sentiment was emphasised last week during the launching of the Guyana Book Foundation’s (GBF) Annual National Bookfair.

Amerindian Affairs Minister, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues, who was the guest speaker at the event held in the Rupununi Room of the Hotel Tower, Georgetown, noted that prior to the advent of television, videos, video-games, and the internet – reading was the preferred pastime.

&, and especially young people, spent a lot of time reading books and learning, but unfortunately, it appears as though we are losing the skills to read and the passion to read,” Minister Rodrigues posited.

She also questioned the reason for this trend, especially since research has shown that children and teens that read have higher IQs, are more creative and do better in school.

it is sometimes considered a burden by parents to ensure that their children are with their books rather then watching television. In fact, some of us encourage our children to watch television since we see it as a way of diverting our children from mischief,” she asserted.

While acknowledging that television is not totally harmful, and in fact it is one way in which one can learn, Rodrigues feels “not all that is on screen is good for our children’s digestion” and “we still have some way to go in Guyana in terms of programming appropriately for our children”. As such we need to pay keen attention at what our children view, she told the large audience at the Bookfair, which included former President, Mrs. Janet Jagan – herself a career journalist and writer, and other local writers including Dr. Ian McDonald and Guyana Prize for Literature winner, Mr. Ruel Johnson.

“Research has shown, and probably just experience would tell us that, reading plays a key role in the socialisation of children. Reading to, with, and around children can heavily influence a child’s positive attitudes towards learning and education and one of the best ways to develop children’s interest in reading is by reading in front of them,” she contended.

Rodrigues is also of the view that reading is instrumental in forming the foundation on which a child’s educational career is built, and by instilling a love for reading and encouraging a child to maintain it, a stronger desire to resist the negative persuasion of peers is developed.

right books can teach young and old alike about things unfamiliar to them. In addition, reading introduces people to new ideas, from religion and science to politics and sports,” she said.

Chairman of the Guyana Book Foundation, Mr. David A. Granger, in welcoming persons to the book-fair, invited them to consider the question, “What are we doing here?”

this book-fair is not to become a sterile annual ritual, the organisers, no matter how earnest their efforts; the booksellers and publishers, no matter how attractive their products; and the viewers and visitors, no matter how deep their interest, must be convinced that some good will come out of the entire exercise,” Granger asserted.

the one hand, it is the Foundation’s intention to bring publishers, dealers and readers together with the hope that, ultimately, such interaction would encourage more children to read, resulting, of course, in a higher rate or level of literacy,” he said.

“On the other hand, it is also the Foundation’s intention to avoid the consequences of illiteracy and ignorance (since) it is felt that if persons do not learn to read as children, they may be less likely to want to do so as adults,” he added.

According to Granger, researchers who have examined social problems in Guyana, such as those caused by abuse, disease, discrimination, homelessness, poverty and prostitution, for example, think that education could play an important part in changing behaviour, building self esteem and achieving a comfortable standard of living.

&Li is an important part of education (and) poorly educated people, it is felt, are more likely, and better educated people, less likely, to become victims of these social problems,” he asserted.

It has been said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!” Guyana today provides much evidence of the high level of ignorance, Granger pointed out.