BIAJ Celebrates nation builders with Literacy Hero Award

BIAJ Celebrates nation builders with Literacy Hero Award


On Wednesday, March 8, 2023, the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) held its inaugural annual award ceremony. he ceremony honoured individuals and organisations focused on increasing readers across Jamaica.

The competition received over 100 nominations submitted by individuals and organisations representing 10 of Jamaica’s 14 parishes. The four awardees receive a medal plus a cash grant of $75,000 each and a special youth award of $25,000. The inaugural cohort includes a sustainable community library project, a social media reading campaign led by a mother and son duo, a mobile books and bibliotherapy project, and a foundation established to honour the memory of a beloved “bookworm” sister.

Joel Nomdarkham (Photo credit: Daniel Hyatt)

Starbucks, Halfway Tree hosted the standing-room-only event. The evening’s MC, Joel Nomdarkham, explained that the reading bug bit him late. He stated that he received a book last June for the first time since high school. Now he reads at least two books a month. Thanks to the insistence from the BIAJ Director of Special Projects and conceptualiser of the award, Ms Latoya West-Blackwood, who gave him that book in June, he is now a reading ambassador. He mentioned that he finds ways to start conversations about reading with all who will listen.

BIA Partnerships

BIAJ Director of Special Projects and conceptualiser of the award, Ms Latoya West-Blackwood (Photo credit: Daniel Hyatt)

Mrs West-Blackwood is a known cham ion of reading in Jamaica. Through the BIAJ, she creates opportunities to reach our population. When explaining the awards, s e stated, “At the core of reimagining and reigniting a nation for greatness must be a vision for literacy. Without this vision, we leave our youth vulnerable to face a present and future driven by knowledge. We are extremely grateful for the funding support provided by the GrassROOTS Community Foundation and the National Education Association of America via their Read Across America Ambassador, Marley Dias.”

Highlighting the need for local partners, Ms West-Blackwood appealed for corporate Jamaica to team with the BIAJ. “We are also making a special appeal to corporate partners to come on board and help us to grow this initiative from strength to strength.”

The Awardees

Rachael McDonald Receiving her award. (Photo credit: Daniel Hyatt)

Rachael McDonald—Di Cawna Library

Di Cawna Library is on Duff and Moore Streets in Rose Town, South St. Andrew. Educator and early education expert Rachael McDonald leads the effort. Di Cawna supports SDGs 4, 11, and 13 by promoting quality education for adults and children to build viable and calm communities. Three refrigerators-turned-bookshelves let people take, read, and return books anytime. Programs promote mental health, the ecosystem, and a positive mindset. The project became famous with local support as key community members requested help to improve children’s and adults’ reading proficiency.

Since the plan worked in Rose Town and helped neighbouring towns, the effort is growing. Montego Bay, Bull Bay, and Treasure Beach will get Cawna schools this year.

Follow Di Cawna Library on Instagram @ForTheFUNJa.

Representatives from I-Nation Books and Necessities receiving their award (Photo credit: Daniel Hyatt)

Kirk Scarlett – I-Nation Books and Necessities

Many of Jamaica’s top personalities look to I-Nation as the place to search out and receive relevant cultural knowledge. After failing to find Pan-African literature in local shops, Kirk Scarlett founded I-Nation Books and Necessities as a mobile bookshop 20 years ago. He turned to books to inspire change in his community’s young.

I-Nation also started a reading program at Devon House with celebrity volunteers reading and reasoning with Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks.

Follow I-Nations Books and Necessities on Instagram at @ination_books_necessities.

Representatives from Winsome Wishes for Kids receiving their award (Photo credit: Daniel Hyatt)

Simone Sobers—Winsome Wishes For Kids Foundation

Since 2021, the Winsome Wishes For Kids Foundation has helped suffering students. Winsome Wishes For Kids Foundation provides teachers with novel tools to fit student’s learning styles and, most importantly, books to foster a love of reading. The charity has given 235 books to 105 children in 8 schools islandwide through innovative alliances and donor funding. Over three weeks, their 2022 summer camp helped these kids become highly adept in literacy and love reading.

Follow Winsome Wishes For Kids @wwforkids.

Luca, Marion and Daddy Carter received their award. (Photo credit: Daniel Hyatt)

Luca Phillips and Marion Carter

Mom Marion Carter and son Luca Phillips created an Instagram group (@thisboyisbooked) to share their joy of reading. Carter posted books Luca was reading on her social media page and received inquiries from users, most of whom were parents. Marion chose books depicting Caribbean culture, history, and events to teach and inspire Luca and other children. The page now helps parents, educators, and others find fun and instructive texts with good ethnic content. Carter believes reading should be fun to bond, share tales, and instil values and attitudes. @ThisBoyIsBooked helps parents and caregivers get kids into reading early. They’re gathering children’s books to give to schools, homes, and community libraries.

Follow the dynamic duo on Instagram @thisboyisbooked

About the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ)

The Book Industry Association of Jamaica is the longest-established trade association in the English-speaking Caribbean. Over the past 30 years, it engendered a national reading and knowledge culture through accessible literature, indigenous publishing, and respect for copyright. The organisation represents publishers, wholesalers, retailers, digital makers, writers, and other book business stakeholders. The BIAJ has promoted learning and reading for joy through its main Kingston Book Festival since 1989. The BIAJ promotes learning and reading for change, development, equitable wealth, and cultural protection.


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