By Carmen Glover
Twelve years ago, accomplished educator Ja’Nice Wisdom, decided to make a change in Jamaica, West Indies by ensuring that story books were more readily available to children who lacked the resources to purchase a variety of reading material. She created and launched Read Across Jamaica (RAJ), an initiative designed to expand reading opportunities on the island, through a non-profit foundation with the same name.
RAJ, currently underway in Jamaica since May 4, wraps up with activities over the weekend. The theme for this year’s event is “Consolidating the Gains: Collaborating for Growth and Sustainability.”
This year, Read Across Jamaica Foundation collaborated with The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) and the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) to celebrate Education Week 2015. Activities have included a bus tour across the island where reading volunteers stop at schools in St James, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Elizabeth and engage eager students in reading activities with the expectation that the buzz built during the week will permeate the students’ daily lives.
For children whose parents and guardians have challenges with reading, Wisdom is pleased that they “come to the schools to observe and show interest,” which goes a long way in strengthening a reading environment in the home. “We pass on books to the parents and we encourage the children to share the books with their parents,” she said.
RAJ, Wisdom said “was launched to reach out and give back to the children. It was part of a research project I was doing at the University of Maryland to see why children were passing through the system” without acquiring the skills needed to succeed. She decided to model a similar system that was used in the USA and tailor it to meet the Jamaican community.
Twelve years later, RAJ is more robust than ever. After the weeklong reading events are completed, Wisdom and her delegation relies on “the schools to provide follow-up,” to ensure that the excitement generated for reading is nurtured throughout the year. “We do not have the capacity to collect the data,” during the weeklong activities to determine the children’s progress, she said. However, “We talk to the students, see their attitudes about reading,” and use that as a gauge to plan for the following year’s events.
One of the features of the 2015 RAJ is the inclusion of musical ambassadors Tasha T, and Asante Amen who juxtapose reading with the elements of music and poetry. Tasha T, who hails from Toronto, Canada, has been involved in RAJ since 2011 and sees her role as vital to the RAJ initiative and she explained that she utilizes various measures to win the children’s interest and attention.
“I introduce myself to them as a recording artist and I get them to sing along,’ she explained of her style. “I encourage them to continue reading because everyone has to work together for the children to succeed.” Tasha T said that she also plays games with the children because her aim is to show the children “what they are capable of and that education is a way of survival.” Tasha T’s signature song for the RAJ initiative is “Educate Yourself,” on the RasVibe label.
As the RAJ initiative has grown over the years, so has the need for books to meet the demand for eager readers. “We need funds. We have a book clinic online and we ship the books to Jamaica,” said Wisdom of the project. “There’s no favoritism with the schools that we visit. We follow each school that we visit for five years.” Citing the scope of RAJ and the goal of expansion, Wisdom invites supporters across the globe to get involved. “We encourage people to visit online and donate funds and books,’ she said.
To contact Read Across Jamaica and Ms. Wisdom, call (301)-672-4133, (876)-852-3418, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.–OnPointPress.net.