International Literacy Day: Help Another Read

Read a book day. That is what we are observing today. Then on Thursday, it’s Literacy Day.

In a time of social media, everything being online, it might feel as if reading is a thing of the past and video is everything.

That was not the case in my childhood and thankfully my daughter is ensuring that her girls are picking up books.

Being literate was the thing of those years.

My childhood could hardly be described as idyllic. Warmth, affection and close-knit are not words you would use in a sentence if you were to write the story of my mother and my journey.

Few are my fond recollection of my childhood with the woman who gave birth to me. Few are also the lessons that I will always cherish that she imparted to me.

“Manners will take you through this world,” she would always say. Never mind that she would be beating the crap out of me. So, politeness was one wing on my aircraft that would take me out of her world and into the one that I spent many nights dreaming about.

readEducation Was The Second Wing

I was attending Miss Thomas’ school from my eyes were at my knees. By the time I was five, Pembroke Hall Primary School became my second home. At 10+ I passed Jamaica’s Common Entrance Examination and was awarded a place at my first choice of secondary school – St. Hugh’s High for Girls.

At 18, I was boarding an aircraft for Kyiv State University in the former USSR to begin the most interesting period of my young adult life pursuing a Master’s degree in International Relations.

Fast forward a couple of decades and a second Master’s in Theological Studies was on my horizon. Betwixt and between, a couple of diplomas, certificates and an applied degree as well as stories to go with each were gathered. As late as 2020, I was earning another Applied Diploma in Immigrations.

My own daughter would call me driven regarding my pursuit of knowledge. I would describe it as questioning.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela


My Mother Could Hardly Read

When I learned that my mother could hardly read it was a shock to me. It also felt somewhat like hypocrisy. Yet it explained her push for me to get an education. She could barely afford to send me to school. Somehow she managed to put me through school up to my last year at St. Hugh’s. After that, it was up to me.

Growing up in Jamaica in the 1970s, I witnessed firsthand the transformation in adults’ lives by simply being able to spell their names. The then Prime Minister of the country, the late Right Honourable Michael Manley, introduced JAMAL – The Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy. My mother was at first ashamed to admit that her reading skills were at the kindergarten level, however, as more and more people came forward to attend classes she joined the bandwagon.

My first voluntary service was through JAMAL. I often helped adults with reading and writing at night in the same classrooms we children used in the days. These classes were free and to my recollection, the ‘teachers’ all volunteered their services. That was one of the many aspects of “Democratic Socialism,” that had me on fire – people helping people.

“Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.

Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. There are good reasons why literacy is at the core of Education for All (EFA).” – See more at: UNESCO

readBarely Literate In 2022

It amazes me today to see how many people in technologically advanced societies such as Canada are barely literate. Literacy and education, in my view and as my mother insisted, are wings to freedom and self-determination.

Sounds political? Maybe but I have always agreed that the personal is political.

Read A Book Day and International Literacy Day are opportunities to make it your rallying point to give the gift of literacy to even one by donating books, time or financial support to a school or community agency offering reading programmes.

Have a great rest of the day!


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