Accomplished educator Ja’Nice Wisdom pushes for access to books in beautiful Jamaica

Educator Ja'Nice Wisdom

Educator Ja’Nice Wisdom is the founder and executive director of  the Read Across Jamaica Foundation that was created to expand reading resources for children.

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.”

A reading volunteer participates in Read Across Jamaica event.

A reading volunteer participates in Read Across Jamaica event.

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.

Reading volunteer engages children in reading activity.

Reading volunteer engages children in reading activity.

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.

Reading volunteer reads to children who interact with excitement.

Reading volunteer reads to children who interact with excitement.

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.

Read Across Jamaica's Music Ambassador Tasha T.

Read Across Jamaica’s Music Ambassador Tasha T.

“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.

Read Across Jamaica Music Ambassador Asante Amen.

Read Across Jamaica Music Ambassador Asante Amen.

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: jwisdom2u@gmail.com.–OnPointPress.net.

 

 

Jamaica gears up to celebrate the joys of reading during Education Week, May 3-9

Read_across_jamaica_logo

Children eagerly participate in Read Across Jamaica in 2014.

Children eagerly participate in Read Across Jamaica in 2014 by raising their hands in response to questions posed about books that were read to them.

Washington, DC, April 30, 2015 – The Read Across Jamaica (RAJ) Foundation, in collaboration with the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), will launch its annual Education Week activities, May 3 to 9, 2015 under the theme  “Consolidating the Gains: Collaborating for Growth and Sustainability.” The RAJ delegation will include Tasha T and Asante Amen, musical ambassadors, who will use their talents to highlight reading and writing as well as emphasize the message that “Education is the Key” as they recite in song. The entire team will focus on schools in St. James, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, St., Kingston and St. Elizabeth to close out their annual Read Across Jamaica Bus Tour.

Jamaica's Prime Minister Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller reads to a child during Read Across Jamaica 2013.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller reads to a child during Read Across Jamaica 2013.

Read Across Jamaica, an initiative created and introduced by Ja’nice Wisdom in 2003 to help promote literacy in Jamaica, supports the VISION 2030 Goals set by the Ministry of Education, and seeks to achieve 95 percent literacy at the primary level by facilitating literacy efforts that encourage children of all ages to master basic literacy skills through the act of reading. The growth and success of the RAJ program has sprung up in many classrooms across the island with the declaration of Read Across Jamaica Day, which will be celebrated this year on Tuesday, 5 May 2015.

Participant reads to children as part of Read Across Jamaica.

Participant reads to children as part of Read Across Jamaica.

During Education Week, literacy ambassadors will be joining local volunteers to involve children in creative and interactive forms of reading. These activities encourage children to enjoy literature and to better understand and appreciate family, diversity and global community needs.

“We place a high value on kids reading for fun and having stories that reflect their experience,” said Ja’nice Wisdom, president and founder of the Read Across Jamaica movement.

Participant reads to a group of boys who peer intently at the book being read.

Participant reads to a group of boys who peer intently at the book being read.

Since 2003, the Read Across Jamaica Literacy Project has served over 25,000 students and provided over 50,000 books and supplies to children in Jamaica. This year, Read Across Jamaica Foundation will partner with the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) to include in their distribution 500 brand-new books written by Jamaican authors and feature several of these local authors as “key readers” throughout their journey across Jamaica. Thirty-five authors, six publishers and two booksellers will contribute to this year’s initiative.

Children point excitedly at characters in a book being read by a Read Across Jamaica participant.

Children point excitedly at characters in a book being read by a Read Across Jamaica participant.

To find out more about sponsorship, serving as a local volunteer or literacy ambassador, contact: Ja’nice Wisdom (301) 672-4133, (876) 852-3418 or email: jwisdom2u@gmail.com. Donate books online at www.ReadAcrossJamaica.com and visit our facebook page: ReadAcrossJA. The Read Across Jamaica Foundation (RAJ) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to introduce creative and interactive methods of reading to children and encourage them to enjoy literature as an aid to changing future disparaging lifestyles affected by illiteracy.-OnPointPress.net.