#BTColumn - World Reading Aloud Day 2023 - Barbados today (2023)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the authors do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.

By Wayne Campbell

"Reading is the key skill that makes all other learning possible." - Barack Obama.

The power of reading is contagious. Once a student possesses the keys to reading, a total transformation begins. Unfortunately, there are millions of people worldwide who have not yet experienced this human right. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), it is estimated that only a third of 10-year-olds worldwide are able to read and understand a simple written story. These statistics are extremely worrying and speak to the global literacy plight. UNICEF adds that the remainder, about two-thirds (64 percent), fail to cover this marker of minimum reading comprehension. This is an increase from 52 percent before the pandemic. UNICEF warns of the global education crisis and the urgent need for action.

World Reading Day also raises awareness of the importance of access to books and education for children everywhere. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are over 775 million adults who lack basic literacy skills. And in low-income countries, one in five children has no access to education. Literacy is a fundamental human right and World Reading Day reminds us that every child deserves the chance to learn to read and write. World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) is a global advocacy commemoration aimed at empowering, supporting and promoting reading aloud and celebrating the power of literacy.

Reading is crucial for the development of language and communication. Reading is more than word recognition. Reading involves comprehension, fluency and automatism of the material read. Alberta Education defines literacy as "the ability, confidence, and willingness to engage with language to acquire, construct, and communicate meaning in all aspects of daily life." Research shows that children exposed to a larger vocabulary from picture books read aloud more than children who only converse with adults. World Reading Day is the perfect opportunity for teachers to connect with their students. The day also offers parents the opportunity to exchange ideas with their children.

Reading aloud helps develop a child's love of literature, expands their vocabulary, and introduces them to a wider variety of books. It's also an integral part of building crucial literacy skills from preschool through high school. Additionally, reading aloud is a fun and effective way for your students to engage with them.

World Reading Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday of February and will take place on February 1st this year. This is a day dedicated not only to reading, but also to the art and practice of reading aloud. Jamaica, like many societies with a post-colonial past, has a rich and untapped oral history. Stories were passed from generation to generation even before writing was invented. Oral forms of storytelling were the earliest ways of preserving human knowledge, insight, and creativity. World Reading Day helps us bring this tradition back to reading while promoting literacy.

Participants are encouraged to choose a book, find a friend, and read aloud. The day also encourages parents to read to their children. It's never too early for parents to read to their children. When parents read to their children, it promotes language development and social-emotional learning. Reading aloud also makes children happy. When parents read to their children, children get the spark to become happy readers themselves. Both children and parents enjoy the special bond that develops when parents read to their children.

As the international community celebrates World Read Alou Day, we must show solidarity with the women of Afghanistan who have been denied access to education by an all-male government. The international community must continue to engage and pressure the Taliban regime to reverse this order preventing girls as young as 12 from attending school. WRAD is closely associated with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4, which addresses universal education. Unfortunately, some governments do not respect this human right.

History of World Reading Day

Since its inception in 2010, World Read Aloud Day has celebrated the joys of reading and sharing stories. The day, created by author Pam Allyn and literacy advocate Paul Reed, is celebrated today in over 170 countries around the world. It's a day to celebrate the power of words and to remind us that every child deserves access to books and the opportunity to learn to read.

LitWorld is a non-profit organization working in the field of education and specifically literacy. Their mission statement is “Empowering children and communities through the power of stories.” Reading aloud has been shown to benefit children and their caregivers by improving spelling as listeners hear the correct pronunciation of words. It also increases social connection and empathy when listeners identify with the characters in the stories. That's what the day wants to achieve. In 2010, they created the first World Read Aloud Day to encourage diverse voices and narratives around the world.

Reading is gender neutral

There is a culture that dictates to boys that reading is anti-male and unfortunately this subculture, reinforced by popular culture, has kept many of our boys away from education in general and reading in particular. This lack of motivation to read urgently needs to be addressed. Disturbingly, boys who display school intelligence are often derided as effeminate by their peers and even adults in areas where men's academic excellence is devalued.

In most cases, the literacy specialist or reading teacher is female. Reading is gender neutral and as a result more fathers are required to read to their sons. It's unfortunate that we tend to think of reading and literature as a female activity. This is problematic and must be reversed for the long-term benefit of society. A major part of the boys' crisis in our education system is that our boys don't read. Social and cultural factors have influenced and continue to influence the various ways in which masculinity is defined, not only in Jamaican society but in societies everywhere. Masculinity and what it means to be a man impacts the education of our boys. Many boys see the school experience as feminine. The life choices of our young are severely constrained by dominant notions of masculinity that compete with “multiple masculinities” in society.

We need to create safe places for boys in our schools, encourage this habit and foster a culture of reading. How will you mark this Global Literacy Day? Celebrate World Reading Day by grabbing a favorite text and reading it aloud. Have students bring their favorite book, magazine, script, newspaper, etc. Ask each student to choose an excerpt to read to the class. Also, hold a class discussion about the power of literacy.

This World Reading Day, spread the power of reading by doing one of the following activities in the room you are in.

Raise: Have several classroom “reads” throughout the day and talk together about the importance of global literacy to make this a special day of reading!

advocate: Spread the word about World Reading Day at school by hosting a school-wide reading event. Teachers are encouraged along with their students to make posters in the classroom to inform the school and community about the event. Participants can create bookmarks with information about the day and reading tips for their peers.

Innovieren: Share World Read Aloud Day by creating podcasts, blogs and projects on various social media platforms. Fortunately, a significant number of schools have resumed face-to-face classes since the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this will no doubt add that special dimension to this Global Literacy Day.

Ways to celebrate World Reading Day

It is evident that more funding and more private/public partnerships are needed to support many schools in building their reading programmes. Regardless, how will you watch WRAD? Will your students read to younger students in the school or neighboring schools? Will you invite a local author to your school? Will some of our dancehall artists visit their alma mater and read to the current students? How about visiting a children's or old people's home and reading to the residents? What about the church or the homework center? Maybe there is a literacy club at your school? It is imperative that we all lend our voice to such an important global event.

In the words of Kate DiCamillo, reading should not be presented to children as a chore or chore. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator interested in development politics as it impacts cultural and/or gender issues.

[Email Protected], @WayneCamo

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