Read­ing is a hu­man right

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Melissa Martin Lit­er­acy for All Chil­dren Need Books Rais­ing Read­ers -Kather­ine Pat­ter­son

Give your brain a work­out— read a book. Pump up the mus­cle mass be­tween your two ears. Read­ing is that im­por­tant. And peo­ple in all coun­tries around the globe de­serve the right to learn to read.

The United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion (UNESCO) es­ti­mates that 175 mil­lion young peo­ple lack ba­sic lit­er­acy skills. To ad­dress the is­sues, UNESCO Re­gional Of­fice of South­ern Africa (ROSA) is sup­port­ing pro­grams and ac­tiv­i­ties to de­velop qual­ity lit­er­acy ma­te­ri­als for lit­er­acy ed­u­ca­tors and learn­ers through in­te­grat­ing mother lan­guage in lit­er­acy teach­ing and learn­ing. Fifty-two years ago, UNESCO of­fi­cially de­clared Septem­ber 8 In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­acy Day, with the goal of high­light­ing lit­er­acy as a hu­man rights is­sue. www. unesco.org/.

In 2018, The In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­acy As­so­ci­a­tion de­vel­oped the Chil­dren’s Rights to Read project. The Case for Chil­dren’s Rights to Read lists 10 fun­da­men­tal Read­ing Rights. www.lit­er­a­cy­world­wide.org/.

Ac­cord­ing to At­las (2017), the 25 most il­lit­er­ate coun­tries in­clude: South Su­dan, Afghanista­n, Burk­ina Faso, Niger, Mali, Chad, So­ma­lia, Ethiopia, Guinea, Benin, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Sene­gal, The Gam­bia, Bhutan, Pak­istan, Guinea-Bis­sau, Mozam­bique, Cen­tral African Repub­lic, Cote d’Ivoire, Nepal, Bangladesh, Ti­mor-Leste, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Togo. www.worl­dat­las.com/.

Fam­ily Schol­arly Cul­ture and Ed­u­ca­tional Suc­cess: Books and School­ing in 27 Na­tions, a 2010 ar­ti­cle in the ScienceDir­ect Jour­nal found that, “Chil­dren grow­ing up in homes with many books get 3 years more school­ing than chil­dren from book­less homes, in­de­pen­dent of their par­ents’ ed­u­ca­tion, oc­cu­pa­tion, and class.” www.sciencedir­ect. com/.

Chil­dren need to see other kids that look like them­selves in pic­ture books. Why? Kids of colour need to be rep­re­sented in lit­er­a­ture to show they are im­por­tant in the world and that they mat­ter. We Need Di­verse Books is an or­ga­ni­za­tion with a vi­sion of “a world in which all chil­dren can see them­selves in the pages of a book.” Find more in­for­ma­tion at www. we­need­di­verse­books.org.

Di­verse books, both fic­tion and non­fic­tion, help kids un­der­stand that even though chil­dren look dif­fer­ent on the out­side, they are all the same on the in­side. Our homes, schools, li­braries, and com­mu­ni­ties need di­verse books on book­shelves.

Cel­e­brate Chil­dren’s Book Week

With Chil­dren’s Book Week turn­ing 100 years old in 2019, Ev­ery Child a Reader and the Chil­dren’s Book Coun­cil have an­nounced plans for a cel­e­bra­tion. The 100th An­niver­sary theme is “Read Now. Read For­ever.” Look to the past, present, and most im­por­tant, the fu­ture of chil­dren’s books. Chil­dren’s Book Week is April 29-May 5, 2019. Happy Birth­day to Chil­dren’s Book Week!

Es­tab­lished in 1919, Chil­dren’s Book Week is the long­est-run­ning na­tional lit­er­acy ini­tia­tive in the U.S. Ev­ery year, events are held na­tion­wide at schools, li­braries, book­stores, and homes. www. ev­erychildar­eader.net/.

Why is it im­por­tant to ex­pose ba­bies, tod­dlers, and younger chil­dren to the world of books? Why is it im­por­tant to read aloud to ba­bies and tod­dlers? Why is it im­por­tant to make read­ing fun for chil­dren?

Par­ents are a child’s first teach­ers, first role mod­els, and first com­mu­ni­ca­tors; talk­ing, lis­ten­ing, singing, mak­ing sounds, smil­ing, laugh­ing, and hug­ging. Homes are the build­ing blocks of so­ci­ety. “Chil­dren are made read­ers on the laps of their par­ents,” sur­mised Em­i­lie Buch­wald.

“Learn­ing to read and write doesn’t start in kinder­garten or first grade. De­vel­op­ing lan­guage and lit­er­acy skills be­gins at birth through ev­ery­day lov­ing in­ter­ac­tions, such as shar­ing books, telling sto­ries, singing songs and talk­ing to one an­other.” www.ze­ro­tothree.org/.

“Chil­dren learn to love the sound of lan­guage be­fore they even no­tice the ex­is­tence of printed words on a page. Read­ing books aloud to chil­dren stim­u­lates their imag­i­na­tion and ex­pands their un­der­stand­ing of the world. It helps them de­velop lan­guage and lis­ten­ing skills and pre­pares them to un­der­stand the writ­ten word. When the rhythm and melody of lan­guage be­come a part of a child’s life, learn­ing to read will be as nat­u­ral as learn­ing to walk and talk.” www. read­in­grock­ets.org/.

“It is not enough to sim­ply teach chil­dren to read; we have to give them some­thing worth read­ing. Some­thing that will stretch their imag­i­na­tions— some­thing that will help them make sense of their own lives and en­cour­age them to reach out to­ward peo­ple whose lives are quite dif­fer­ent from their own.”

Melissa Martin, PhD, is an au­thor, colum­nist, ed­u­ca­tor, and ther­a­pist. She lives in U.S.

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