The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Latin America and the Caribbean Reads Capacity Program (LRCP) has successfully staged Jamaica’s inaugural Early Reading Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
The LRCP partnered with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) and several key stakeholders in the private and public sectors to host the conference, which was held on September 27 under the theme “Get Reading, Right From the Start”.
The Keynote Speaker, Mr. Gary “Butch” Hendrickson, an advocate and supporter of early childhood education reminded the audience of the importance of early learning to the development of the nation. He said that a sound early childhood education helps to prevent later learning challenges. “Children are like sponges” he stated, “they are receptive, curious and are always willing to learn more.” Participants were encouraged to channel the children’s energies and curiosities in the right direction and expose them to enriching and new experiences.
The Minister of Education, Youth & Information, Senator, the Hon. Ruel Reid, hailed the Early Reading Conference as a great platform for dialogue between researchers and practitioners in the education sector thereby assisting with the improvement in methods and strategies for early reading in Jamaica.
Minister Reid noted that the Conference provided an opportune occasion to reflect on practical examples and changes which could be made in the coming months to advance student achievement. He said the MOEYI was proud to partner with stakeholders to further advance Jamaica’s focus on literacy development from a multifaceted and holistic approach involving the children, the family, the community and the schools. “I commend all the participants in the conference involved in reading programmes across the country, as well as the USAID and the LRCP for this initiative,” said Mr. Reid.
Country Representative for USAID/Jamaica, Mr. Jason Fraser, lauded the LRCP, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Juárez & Associates, EduConnect Jamaica and the MOEYI for not only staging a successful conference but also for their continued push to improve the reading skills of Jamaica’s early graders.
Mr. Fraser stated that the conference was perfectly aligned with the strategic objectives of the USAID’s LRCP to increase the impact, scale and sustainability of early grade literacy in Jamaica. He said Jamaica was one of the countries that the USAID has had the opportunity to partner with, in an effort to strengthen the education system.
He also noted that over the last 10 years, the USAID has supported more than 151 basic education programs in over 45 countries, including Jamaica, directly benefiting more than 41 million children and youth.
LRCP Project Director from the American Institutes of Research, Dr. Rebecca Stone, noted that the one-day Conference in Jamaica was the culmination of several years of work in the field of early grade literacy in Jamaica, the Caribbean and Central America. Dr. Stone said over the years, stakeholders and partners had collected evidence and resources on policies, practices and programs that support early grade literacy development.
She pointed out that the Conference provided the right forum for the sharing of this research material and to bring together experts from Jamaica and the international community to expand on existing materials and to apply them to improve early grade reading policies, practices and programs in Jamaica and the wider region.
Hundreds of early grade practitioners, teachers, college lecturers, pre-service teachers, researchers, parents, and other stakeholders attended the inaugural conference, much to the delight of Dr. Jean Beaumont, Program Manager of the USAID/LRCP Program in Jamaica and CEO of EduConnect Jamaica Limited.
Dr. Beaumont noted that the overwhelming success of the conference was a testament to the commitment and drive of the stakeholders in Jamaica’s early grade sector. She highlighted that the conference “sensitized all Jamaica of the importance of ensuring that every child is a reader by eight years of age.”
Dr. Beaumont was particularly excited about the Kiddies Village which was an innovative component of the conference. The CHASE Fund was the main sponsor of the Kiddies Village which was managed by the Early Childhood Commission. “It is great to see children from various early childhood centres, infant and primary schools accompanied by parents and teachers on location for the demonstration of effective practices that parents and teachers can model at home and in the classroom,” said Dr. Beaumont.
The Conference was a part of the five-year regional USAID/ (LRCP), implemented by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in partnerships with Juárez & Associates (J&A) and financed by the USAID. The program, implemented from 2014-2019, enhances efforts to boost early grade reading outcomes in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Peru, as well as Eastern Caribbean states.
source: first look