"Literacy unlocks the door to learning throughout life, is essential to development and health, and opens the way for democratic participation and active citizenship."
Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN
Publications from Reading Owls
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Books Can Change Us. How a Chance Encounter with Jane Austen fuels my giving
I loved that little library by the sea. It was essentially two rooms connected by a foyer which housed a sadly inadequate number of books in its capacity as Parish Library for the parish of Hanover. But it was so beautiful.
For someone who grew up reading Shakespeare, Bronte, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Louis L’Amour (the latter my father had gotten as a gift and I was hooked), finally reading books written by and about Black people was a watershed moment. Green Days by the River by Michael Anthony, The Lonely Londoners by Samuel Selvon, Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul, No Telephone to Heaven by Michelle Cliff, Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid, The Children of Sisyphus by Orlando Patterson and the poems of the late Louise Bennett Coverley and Claude McKay totally altered my perception of self and Blacks in general. I began to see us as amazing writers and storytellers whose writing is just as beautiful and arresting, but lacking in exposure.
No Ordinary Journey: How a trip to Jamaica fueled my passion
To my mind, access to books could be a great equalizer, providing the single most important tool children need to build literacy skills and boost their confidence as learners, thinkers and contributors to the world. But what I never considered was how this volunteer experience would impact me.
The Power of Collaborations: Reading Owls and Peace Corps join forces to tackle illiteracy in Jamaica
Without proper safeguarding and screening, many students reach grade levels far beyond their skill levels in reading, writing and comprehension. However, perhaps the most beautiful and complicated of reasons for a low literacy rate is the rich oral tradition of the patois language spoken in many dialects islandwide.
Bringing the World to our kids
Recently, in April, I traveled to Jamaica to assess nine new schools. It is part of the function I perform as Chair of a relatively new literacy nonprofit with limited human capital. It is also one of my absolute favorite things to do, as I get to interact with hundreds of kids, and hear first-hand their desires, hopes and dreams, and the type of books they would like to see in any new lending library at their school.