The pandemic has had a devastating impact on children’s learning, well-being, and imagination worldwide. In Jamaica, thousands of children from some of the most vulnerable households were directly impacted with significant learning loss. The recently published Jamaica Education Transformation Committee (JETC) Report highlighted students’ performance who sat the 2019 Primary Exit Profile exams revealing that “… 33 per cent could not read, that 56 per cent could not write, and 60 per cent exhibited difficulty in comprehension.”
One of the concerning outcomes of school closures at the height of the pandemic is a drastic reduction in reading. Urgent interventions to correct this setback are directly connected to citizens’ well-being and productivity. As well as achieving Jamaica’s national goals of growth, peace, and prosperity for all as the island celebrates 60 years of independence.
Education Week 2022
During Education Week, May 2-6, Dr Janice Johnson Dias, mother of teen activist Marley Dias, will return to Jamaica to donate diverse books featuring Black boys and girls as the main characters. The GrassROOTS Community Foundation, led by Dr Johnson Dias, has consistently coordinated donations to support local efforts to boost reading and literacy since 2016. Last year, the GrassROOTS and BIAJ partnership directly impacted 12 schools; this year, that positive impact will be more than tripled, with 40 schools and community groups set to benefit from book bags.
The now annual campaign to raise funds and buy books started on March 31 and concluded on Friday, April 29. With the help of JetBlue and the National Education Trust (NET), schools islandwide will receive book bags during the Week. Marley Dias, the Executive Producer of Netflix Bookmarks and the national Read Across America Ambassador, will make a special announcement on May 5. This will be done via social media and at a small in-person event with local stakeholders.
Literacy Care Packages
Each book bag will contain age-appropriate books and a mix of stationery (crayons, pencils, and notepads) and other materials. Many partners have come to the table to help in this effort, including Scholastic, the Massy Group, Point Global Marketing, Charles Chocolates, and Soccer Xpress. In accepting the donation, Latoya West-Blackwood of the BIAJ spoke about the collective vision shared with their partners. The BIAJ, according to Mrs West-Blackwood, is grateful for the generosity and contributions of Jamaicans at home and abroad.
While in Jamaica, Dr Johnson Dias and GrassROOTS Foundation Board Member Lisa Maxwell will also be supporting the Invest In Girls Summit. The summit is being hosted by the Shelly-Ann Weeks led Her Flow Foundation on Friday, May 6.
We had the privilege of meeting with the BIAJ’s Director of the board, Latoya West-Blackwood, to discuss the effect of a reading kid on our island. Feel free to watch the interview below: