Addressing the reading problem – a necessary step
February 21, 2020

Addressing the reading problem – a necessary step

STUDENTS OF AN earlier era would recall being constantly drilled on the need to be well grounded in the three R’s- reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.

As time progressed, and changes were made to the curriculum in our primary schools, reading, which on the time table was formerly a stand alone subject, taught almost daily, appears to have been a casualty.

And the repercussions have progressed up the education chain through to the tertiary level.

The Ministry of Education, is however, seeking to tackle the problem within the primary school system.

In fact, education minister St Clair Prince, contributing to debate on the 2020 budget in Parliament, stated that head teachers were given an instruction that reading was to be taught as a stand alone subject on the curriculum, as there was evidence which showed that there was a reading problem in some schools.

We understand that while there was no comprehensive study done which led to the action being taken, a decision by the Ministry to conduct their annual reading assessments at the level of grades two and four, in addition to the grade six students as is usually the case, was sufficient to identify that there is indeed, a reading problem at Primary schools. And, a committee will be monitoring the outcomes.

While there may be many schools of thought on how one should approach the teaching of reading in schools — whether as a stand alone subject or across the curriculum — the current situation does not suggest there is time for a prolonged ‘seminar’ in tackling this most egregious problem.

For, how can the Government be content in its expenditure in education and boast about the education revolution when there is evidence, at least in some schools that a sizeable portion of students — more than half in at least one school

that recently shared this information —are reading below the standard for their age?

The demise of well functioning libraries in many schools, and now the prevalence of smart gadgets as a tool for primary communication among many students, must surely have compounded the problem, and will remain a challenge.

But teachers, parents and socialisation groups can all play a role in encouraging students to gravitate once again towards reading, starting with it as a pleasurable past time. It is essential to do whatever is necessary to get our children to again love books and develop the necessary skill of reading. Books can be purchased and downloaded to be read on the smart gadgets which many parents ensure they purchase for their children. Hard copy books can also be bought as gifts, and, of course, if parents read to their children, this can help them develop a love of reading. There are community-spirited individuals, who currently give of their time to help children develop their reading skllls, such efforts are commendable.

And, a number of primary schools have been reactivating their libraries, while there is also the annual ‘hats off to reading’ activity which both need to be supported.

Persons can donate books to the schools to replenish their stock and individuals with time can offer to go into schools to present stories to children; as we get children to read for pleasure, it is anticipated that they will hone their skills to do purposive reading that will help in undertaking research as they move through the education system.

The three R’s are still a necessary foundation in our education and development and the education ministry should be supported in its effort to address the reading problem in our primary schools.