When it comes to targeting literacy, the Cayman Islands is putting up a strong fight.
On Saturday, Sept. 7, the George Town Public Library was teeming with authors, book sellers, painters, crafters, officials and educators in celebration and support of International Literacy Day.
Organized by Rotary Sunrise, Literacy is for Everyone, Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Central, Cayman Islands Information Professionals in partnership with the libraries, the day had something in store for everyone.
Children enjoyed a reading session and teddy bear picnic while guardians and other individuals spent time browsing the many books on sale and taking in a variety of activities.
Literacy in the Cayman Islands has come a long way since the days when most Caymanians could only go as far as elementary school, noted Shirley Wahler, chief education officer.
“When we go back several generations, many people did not have the opportunity for a lot of formal education but they still valued learning and they valued books,” she said. “They might not have had access to a lot of resources but what they had they really treasured.”
Ms Wahler feels Cayman needs to revitalize and focus on that sentiment. “Our people were always committed to learning and moving forward. They did not always have the opportunity that we had.
Today , we have to make use of the opportunities that we have.”
Andrea Bryan, Rotary Sunrise literacy chair, said while the level of learning has improved dramatically over the years, more needs to be done as some children have fallen behind.
“We believe it is because they have not learned to read as well as they could. If they were reading at the appropriate level, they would be more successful in school and in life, she said.
Ms Bryan added that Rotary Sunrise has been assisting with literacy initiatives for the past five years.
She said the service club’s biggest contribution to the program has been to hand out illustrated dictionaries to every first year student entering high school, both public and private.
Mary Rodrigues, the Ministry of Education’s chief officer, said literacy is a key to success.
“If they get a head start on reading, that gives them a head start on learning and that is very important.”
Compared to past generations, Ms Rodrigues said children today have more opportunities. “The libraries are flourishing and International Literacy Day is a great example of that in all aspects.” She emphasized it is important to have organizations such as Rotarians and LIFE partner with the libraries to make it a success.
“We can only make an impact in the community if we have these partnerships with our stake holders.”
Winston Connolly, representative for George Town said: “The Ministry of Education wants to encourage every child to read at a high level and we want to encourage assistance from the private sector and groups such as Rotary Sunrise because we are in this together. It is a win-win situation when everyone is sponsoring at a high level in terms of literacy and numeracy in the Cayman Islands.”
He said literacy is not just aimed at the younger generation, but everyone in the community. “It is not just aimed at the young people in our midst today but we are looking at all ages in all aspects. If we take this approach we can accomplish great things and have a better society.”