Our Readers' Opinions
July 9, 2021
Help! help! our children are struggling to read!

EDITOR: I wish to bring national attention and outcry to the serious plight of illiteracy in our schools. During this week of National Diagnostic Reading Assessment, it has become glaringly clear that students are struggling to read, and in many cases just cannot read.

As a teacher, I have the privilege of speaking with some level of authority to this disturbing issue. 

Can you imagine a grade-four child in our schools today, a year and some away from doing the external CPEA exams, not being able to read at grade-one level? How could a child in grade four go through several grades, yet is only able to read at pre-primer level? Why would a child in grade four be at alphabet level? Yet many of these cases exist in our own schools.

How could we think that this is acceptable? Or react as though nothing is wrong? How could we expect more from our citizens when they fail to have basic-level skills, such as reading?  

I am calling on the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Ministry of Education, Head Teachers and teachers, and parents to rethink their strategy.

This is a serious indictment on all of us as a people. Illiteracy cripples an entire nation. The people will not progress as fast as they should nor reach as far as they could. 

Blame needs to go around. People, systems and strategies need to be held responsible and accountable: cognitive problems, lack of parental support, poor teaching skills, defunct syllabuses, and the list goes on.

However, I want to point finger mostly at the syllabus in lower-end primary school. Is enough time being spent on developing the reading and writing skills of students at Help! help! our children are struggling to read!Grade K and Grade 1 levels? Is the syllabus really cut to suit our demographic? Are those lower levels doing too much unnecessary work and subject areas at the expense of the development of reading and writing which serve as the primary focus and foundation for everything else? 

Does the child proceed out of those grades with sterling phonemic awareness, brilliantly skilled in segmenting and blending to decode words, shining in the recall and spelling of high frequency words, and so on? 

Editor, no child should leave Grade 1 and not know how to read and write. I am crying help, because I have seen the plight of illiteracy with my own eyes looming beneath the surface to one day rear its ugly head as the monster we created against our nation’s children. I am sounding the alarm, before it’s too late.