July 20, 2012
Hope Junior High School hosts reading programme

For the fourth consecutive year, the nation’s youths are benefitting from the expertise of a reading coach at a summer programme, hosted by the Hope Junior High School.{{more}}

International volunteer Jim Bourgeois, who has been leading the programme since its inception, said he uses a “vowel centred” approach to improving participants’ reading skills.

“All printed material is a code for sounds,” he explained. “It’s vowel centred, because every single word in English has a vowel.”

Bourgeois added: “If a student has problems with the vowels, obviously they will have serious problems with reading.”

Bourgeois, who has almost 40 years of teaching experience under his belt, uses a text that he developed in 2010, titled ‘Road to Everywhere: from A(nsel) to Z(elron)’.

It is based on the principle of synthetic phonetics and the process of “repeating discreet sounds and the codes attached to that sound”, and can be purchased in print or electronic form from

The Trinidadian national said that the key to successfully teaching children to read effectively is repetition, as opposed to relying on memory alone.

He also said that one major problem with memory learning (in regard to reading, and spelling and comprehension, by extenstion) is that when children try to remember a word not often used, they will substitute a similarly-spelt word for it – thus attaching incorrect meanings to words.

Co-founder of Hope Junior High School Esther Carr-Taylor said that she believes poor reading/writing is a problem that should be tackled at the primary school level, to ensure that children have the best chance of succeeding in their educational careers later on.

“The system we use [in local schools] does not focus on the sound of language,” said Carr-Taylor.

With a history of teaching deaf students, Carr-Taylor recognises the importance of the vowel centred approach to reading, and said that the Vincentian schooling system also needs specially trained teachers who can recognize the various reading difficulties that students may have.

The summer reading programme will run until August 10, and currently caters to 22 students aged five and up. Carr-Taylor said that she expects the number to increase as the summer progresses.

She further pointed out that the colloquial way of pronouncing words is a hindrance to good reading and spelling.

“Adults need to be careful how they speak, because children learn from them.”

Carr-Taylor further said that being able to read and spell properly is important, because it gives children confidence and “changes their outlook on life”.

The Hope Junior High School currently has 20 enrolled students – many of whom are drop-outs or those who didn’t pass the Common Entrance Examination.

Students are taught up to Form 3 level, and after gaining their Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence, many go on to technical institutes, other secondary schools or enter the work force.(JV)