Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Ronald Jones has challenged Barbadians to consider what they would have been if they were not literate.
Jones threw out this challenge last night while delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of the Reading Conference at the Crane Hotel.
Jones, a former teacher said: “Consider what we would have been if we were not literate. Just consider that, especially when you add to it the extremely sophisticated world in which we live. Imagine going into supermarkets and people telling you to read the labels; just simply consider where you would have been; possibly at the very bottom of the totem pole.
“Just consider not being able to make decisions for yourselves; not being able to read and understand and engage the mind that you could make a worthwhile and valuable contribution to the world. Just consider that, and you would shudder.
“There are still millions of people across the world who do not have the ability to read and are not that fortunate as all of us are. We have to be so thankful in our own space. However, there are still some who cannot read.
“Occasionally I come across some persons who cannot read. We have a duty of care as teachers. We have a duty of responsibility to ensure that every single child, as long as that child does not have deep physical and psychological deep defects, that they are still able to read and to develop some aspects of literacy.
“Reading is at the core of all development of literacies that so combine to create vistas for us as human beings that are truly remarkable,” Jones added.
The Christ Church East Central MP stressed that it was absolutely clear that nothing began in school, but in the homes where the behaviours were learnt.
The Minister of Education said: “The ability to read and understand takes us through every emotion possible. Our children begin the learning process right in the homes; and then comes the school which refines and add to that basic understanding. The school has a role to further develop all of the faculties. all of the talents and abilities of the child.”
Referring to such regional poets as Martin Carter of Guyana, Errol Hill of Trinidad and Tobago and Hilton Vaughan of Barbados, Jones pointed out that poetry cultivates our humanity.
“Reading gives life. It gives us hope and an opportunity to realize that tomorrow is going to be a better day. Subtract all of this from your life and see who you are.”
Highlighting the challenges which confront an illiterate person, Jones said: “When reading a document you may have to go through it three or four times because if you make a mistake you may suffer from making that error. Again, how much so those persons who do not have the ability to interface in a very direct and deliberate way and the ability to make the choice as to what they should tick, what they should x out, and what they should say yes to or no to.
“ It is important to grasp all opportunities to listen, read, speak and to communicate. Literacy for all is so important that it becomes that bedrock for our lives. Beyond children, we must find out if parents can read,” Jones added.