Ask Suzette Cadiz, co-founder of the NGO Let’s Read, the key to education and she will tell you: “the pleasure of reading”.
Decades of academic study on reading his claims. Research shows that children who engage in reading excel academically.
However, most primary schools in TT do not have a library. Reading is not encouraged in schools, and many elementary teachers say they don’t have time to read to children. If teachers are reading, it is seen as something to do in their “free time” rather than an integral part of the school day.
This is where Let’s Read comes in.
“Libraries should be the heart of our schools,” Cadiz said. “Our educators don’t understand that reading per se is a learning activity. Reading for fun should be a part of a school day.
Let’s Read became an official NGO in 2017, but Cadiz, co-founder and director, along with Allison de la Bastide and Marcia Steinburg, had been on a reading crusade since 2010, when it developed libraries for two primary schools in central Trinidad. All three have had careers in early childhood and primary education.
“We went to schools and found their libraries were non-functional and almost non-existent in elementary schools,” Cadiz said. “We made the libraries work. We had no money. At first, we received donations of lightly used books.
The trio of educators created library spaces and put books in them. Then they brought these libraries to life.
“We read to children. We expected these readings to be great, but we didn’t expect them to be this amazing, ”said Cadiz.
After helping their first two school libraries, the supervisor of the Central school asked Cadiz and de la Bastide to speak to schools that were under academic supervision due to poor student performance.
Soon they went from working with two schools to working with 12.
“All of our work in libraries was done by word of mouth,” Cadiz said.
The word went around.
“To date, we have restored 31 elementary school libraries. We are doing a workshop with the teachers because there are no librarians in the primary schools. We model a library session and start with a reading aloud. We show children and teachers how to find books.
Let’s Read runs workshops for teachers that highlight the need for libraries and independent reading in schools.
“Unfortunately, our system does not have a set time for this,” Cadiz said.
Why is this needed?
“When children read books because they want to read, their imaginations and creativity are stimulated. They explore the world and their emotions, meet people like them or very different, travel to different countries or to different periods of history. Reading can relieve stress – especially in this pandemic year. “
Cadiz stressed that reading is the basis of all learning and that children only improve in reading if they practice.
“When kids read for fun, they spontaneously learn reading skills, develop fluency, improve their vocabulary, and master all the literacy skills educators want them to have. They develop a longer attention span and empathy. They become more socially aware.
“Who could argue that reading wouldn’t help create responsible, empathetic and constructive citizens? Who could argue that reading would not increase literacy and SEA scores?
“Children cannot afford not to read; Yet listening to books read aloud and having independent reading time in our schools is often relegated to Friday afternoon, or when all the “work” is done. “
Let’s Read refused to let school closures during the pandemic slow its efforts. This month alone, he offered Zoom reading sessions to six schools. They found the same excitement in the children as when they visited schools before the pandemic.
Here is Cadiz in a recorded reading session.
“When we were at school, the children were eager to go to the library. I have never had a problem with children. I find that if you talk to children calmly and in a respectful manner and then start reading, it is like magic. They listen.”
Cadiz notes that building listening skills is another important aspect of reading aloud to students.
Let’s Read Libraries are filled with books that capture children’s imaginations and reflect their world.
“We support local authors and buy their books for our libraries,” she said. But the NGO imports a lot of books because they can’t find enough interesting picture books to buy here.
“We import the latest picture books to get the diverse and amazing stories our kids deserve. There are books on climate change, endangered animals, and different types of families. Children see and understand each other, pandemics, refugees – any topic you can imagine. These books help our children understand the world. Stories give them hope, passion, a little bit of magic and a little bit of distraction.
Let’s Read also leads its book crusade outside of school, offering books to students who cannot afford them.
“In 2020, thanks to generous donors, we were able to put books in the hands of 1,500 children in three academies. We plan to increase that number this year.
This year, Let’s Read also launched its first Little Free Library program in Matura to serve approximately 100 children. Little Free Libraries, an international NGO, promotes the exchange of community books, with books placed on a public shelf.
“The idea is to put the books in the hands of communities far from bookstores and libraries. These are community inspired projects. They contact us, build the public library and we stock the libraries. We plan to work with ten other communities to build and store Little Free Libraries, ”Cadiz explained.
Then there’s the Book a Baby program, with program coordinator Stacey Merry, which educates mothers of newborns about the importance of reading for their children. This program started with a pediatrician in Port of Spain and has expanded to the Child Assessment Unit in Barataria and the University Hospital of San Fernando.
“Pediatricians talk to mothers on their first visit about brain development in children who are read and mothers are given a book to take home. “
Let’s Read also wants to work more closely with early childhood centers.
“Reading to kids at this preschool age is so important,” Cadiz said.
But again, it’s barely done.
When schools reopen, Cadiz says Let’s Read will be busier than ever. They have volunteers who have signed up to read in schools, more libraries to build and store, more mothers with newborns to read, and more books to put in students’ hands to bring them back home. House. They will continue to advocate for dedicated teacher-librarians in primary schools.
“We would like to start a teacher-librarian program. This is the only way for our elementary school libraries to be fully functional.
Cadiz continues to hope that everyone recognizes that reading is the key to education.
“The children do not go to school. At school, they are taught to answer questions. Children only learn what they are tested on.
“If kids read good books, they learn the values, morals, and all the academic skills that we are trying to teach.” As July quickly approaches, Let’s Read highlights the importance of reading over the next two months. Decades of academic research show that children who read on those long vacations return to school in September at least three months before their non-reading peers.
“Providing access to books over the summer has the potential to improve reading outcomes. It can equalize literacy and close learning gaps if we can get books into the hands of underserved people. “
Sometimes Cadiz wonders about the struggle for teachers and parents to recognize the importance of reading for fun.
“I think, ‘Why am I doing this? And then I go to school and read, and come home great. It’s like magic.
You can contact Let’s Read for more information and to support the NGO. Send an email toletsreadtt @ gmail, see the website atletsreadtt.org or the Facebook page atletsreadtt.