‘Nurturing Young Readers’: YES Launches Reading Enrichment Program

The Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), a passionate, voluntary, and grassroots youth-led development accredited nonprofit organization has launched a two-month Reading Enrichment Program scheduled to take place from July 14 to September 5, 2014.

The program which is being held under the theme “Nurturing the Culture of Reading” was launched on Friday, 11th July 2014 at the Free Pentecostal Global Mission School ideally located in Zayzay Community. It brought together the Minister of Youth & Sports, Director General of the Liberia Broadcasting System, and Assistant Minister for Basic and Secondary Education including a host of children, parents, guardians and community residents.

The Reading Enrichment Program is designed to mobilize and nurture in-school and out-of-school children between the ages of 5 to 16 years old to achieve basic reading proficiency, develop solid comprehension techniques and build vocabulary skills through the provision of free tutorial classes, recreational activities and sports. It is also geared towards creating a safe haven and splendid learning environment as well as fostering a lifelong relationship between in-school and out-of-school children.

This year’s reading program targets two communities within Montserrado County, namely: Zayzay Community, Paynesville City and Snowhall Community, Gardnerville Township. The Free Pentecostal Global Mission School behind the Saint Kizito Parish and the Saint Philip’s Preparatory School in Snowhall serve as venues for the reading clinic. Classes run from Monday through Friday beginning 10:00am to 1:00pm.

Speaking at the event, Stephen B. Lavalah, Founder & Executive Director of YES asserted that reading has drastically declined among Liberians, most especially children. He revealed reading proficiency has fallen due to most parents’ unwillingness to read to their children, inadequate library in schools and communities, insufficient reading materials across the country, high rate of illiteracy coupled with functional illiteracy, as well as lack of appropriate programs to promote interest in reading.

“Nowadays, many children between the ages of 5 to16 years old are unable to read a simple story let alone pronounce words distinctly in an eloquent way. As a result, many students in the upper classes cannot comprehend a passage or even read a newspaper in a fluent manner” the YES boss indicated.

He further noted: “Readers are more likely to become leaders and authors, as a matter of fact; a reader is more likely to make informed decisions and smart choices about life as well as other social, political, and economic aspects”.

The youth leader is encouraging parents and guardians to take advantage of the free Reading             Enrichment Program in order to make their children lifelong readers and learners. He is also motivating Liberians to begin to read books, magazines, newspapers and any readable materials to children so as to inspire them to become readers with strong foundation of academic excellence.

The youth advocate is at the same time calling on the government and its international partners to begin to invest in research and publication in order to motivate more Liberian writers to start applying for grant so as to produce contextualized Liberian textbooks. He urged the government and its partners to capacitate grassroots organizations to implement strategic programs that would cultivate interest in reading.

Delivering the keynote address, Honorable Eugene Lenn Nagbe, Minister of Youth & Sports outlined three fundamental approaches to nurturing reading among children, which included: availability of readable materials, construction of libraries in schools and communities, and willingness of parents and guardians to read to children as well as adequate and qualified teachers specialized in teaching reading and phonics.

Minister Nagbe lamented that the culture of reading has lost from schools and gradually becoming a national crisis, which he said needs a robust campaign involving everybody so as to prepare the young people to become tolerant and critical thinkers in the transformation of Liberia to a noble destiny.

“Let all of us work together as school administrators, parents, guardians, community residents and the government alongside its partners to bring the culture of reading back in our schools and communities” Minister Nagbe accentuated.

The Minister of Youth & Sports stressed the need for the construction of public libraries with sufficient textbooks in every school and community across the country. He emphasized that reading serves as an eye-opener and offers the opportunity for one to take a mental flight anywhere in the world.

For his part, Honorable Darryl Ambrose Nmah, Director General of the award-winning Liberia Broadcasting System referred to reading as a path to success. He admonished Liberian students not to only read what they have been forced to read like lecture notes and assignments, but to concentrate on reading diverse books, magazines, alongside other publications with the intention of acquiring knowledge.

The Director General who served as the chief launcher cautioned young people to make reading a habit and always read different writings that would further prepare and equip them with the tools to accomplish specific tasks. He emphasized that everyone should take reading as fun and read with comprehension. The motivational speaker urged Liberians to try as much as possible to read newspapers and other readable materials every day.

Also speaking, Rev. Tokunboh E. Lawrence, Assistant Minister for Basic and Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education expressed her gratitude and support to YES. The Assistant Minister revealed that her ministry is currently working on a national reading campaign. Rev. Lawrence stated she believe in the slogan “Each One, Reach One, and Teach One” in order to make Liberia a literate society.

In brief remarks, Lennart Dodoo, News Editor of the Insight Newspaper disclosed that reading makes people knowledgeable to become good citizens to better their communities, and make informed decisions for the common good of all. He recounted how reading inspired him to pursue his career as a journalist and social worker. The news editor also called on young people to pay keen attention to reading as it is the nucleus of education.