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On the 8th. day of Christmas, a Jamaican gives to you – Freedom of Literacy

During a very cold wintry night, I dared to take a journey to the mall to look for a special gift for my grand daughter. 

From birth, I have exposed her to books, not taking for granted that she may be an avid reader in the near future.   While out in the cold, I reflected on the times in my life when on Christmas day, I expected something grand and spectacular from my parents (aka Santa Claus).  Yet, each year I was disappointed in the gifts because they didn’t really last and left no memorable impression upon me. Christmas time was just a season and opportunity to be with family, and for that I was grateful.

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By the time I was 12, that expectation that I would receive a gift seemed to fade because the gifts became more about my changing relationship with my parents verses the hunt  for a present to impress or one-up my siblings.  As I reflect on those gift exchanges, the principles my parents sought to convey had nothing to do with the gifts we gave.  But they did have much to do with building my character, self esteem and respect for family.  Because of this, I became more knowledgeable about where my true gift in life lay.

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Freedom and the Reformer

One of the most important skills in life that we tend to take for granted, is the ability to read.  Reading is the difference between freedom and slavery. The have & the have-nots.  Leaders and followers.  Success and failure. In 1855,  the book “My Bondage and My Freedom,”  a slave narrative was published by Frederick Douglass., John Stauffer writes for the 2003 Modern Library paperback edition,: It was [is] a deep meditation on the meaning of slavery, race, and freedom, and on the power of faith and literacy, as well as a portrait of an individual and a nation a few years before the Civil War.” As his narrative unfolds, Frederick Douglass—abolitionist, journalist, orator, and one of the most powerful voices to emerge from the American civil rights movement—transforms himself from slave to fugitive to reformer, leaving behind a legacy of social, intellectual, and political thought.

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This gift of literacy is a powerful tool and should not be taken for granted.   The legacy that lead to a nation of readers, thinkers and generations with the ability to transform a race of people proud of their heritage, communities, economic and social status’, is the same legacy we cannot fail to pass on to future generations.

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As you give at Christmastime, and especially during Kwanzaa, remember to give our children books that entertain their minds, enlighten their knowledge and elevate their self-esteem. Books do not  necessarily have to be reflective of us, because we don’t live in this world alone.  However, we mustn’t forget to include exposure and knowledge of other cultures.  Lest we forget , “Out of many, we are one”.

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During the holiday season, plan to increase your family involvement in reading together by  sharing a passage from your favorite book or one that you are reading now. 

 Talk about your feelings, reflect with your children and use those opportunities as teachable moments.  They will not forget.  Give praise to your ancestors who maintained the spirit of Africa in the Caribbean and America.  Reflect on our fore brothers and sisters who have helped to bring about awareness of our cultural differences and heightened the Caribbean contributions in America.

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And at Christmas time, remember Kwanzaa.  Kwanzaa means “first fruits”.  We celebrate harvest- the harvest of food, of love and of good deeds and friendship.  Kwanzaa begins December 26. This would be a great opportunity to find out more about Kwanzaa if you are not familiar with it.  Allow your children to participate in the various phases of preparing for Kwanzaa.  This will give them a sense of responsibility in being a part of your family tradition.

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As I watched my own children grow up, I watched many toys break.  The gift of literacy gave them something to hold on to—a healthy imagination, a genuine interest in reading and an increase in general knowledge.   I was able to teach them the value of knowledge.  What you put into your mind cannot be taken away.  It lasts a lifetime.  Reading is a tool; a way to find out how to do something to gain knowledge.

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Many people read to find out how to make money, others read to improve their relationships and yet writers of spiritual passages read to bring understanding and peace into their lives and the lives of others.  The pursuit of knowledge should be to improve your future and the future of your family, or your community.  Reading is practical.  Only when you do not use what you learn does it become a waste of time.

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Ways to tell if a book is worthwhile

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • 1) Is it interesting – did you enjoy it? A good book should always be one that you enjoy reading.
  • 2) Did the book leave some clear pictures in your mind? A worthwhile books usually leaves some pictures in your mind.  You can see things almost as if you had been there when they were happening.
  • 3) Did you learn something new? —about adventure, travel, history, invention, science, religion, art, people, fairy tales, or many, many other things?
  • 4) Are the people in the book like real people? – whether good or bad?
  • 5) Did you enjoy the way the author used words?

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During the holiday break, set aside an hour or two to take your child or family members to the library.  With the increased use of computers, we have decreased our opportunities to allow our minds and imaginations to wander or gather from the wealth of information available in these free public repositories.

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Give the gift of literacy

Over the past five years, the Read Across Jamaica Literacy Project has played an important role in gifting children’s books and educational materials to 30 schools throughout Jamaica.  The Literacy Project is an initiative effort to help strengthen literacy services and improve reading instruction for all ages.  Guided by its motto: Share a book with a child and you have given illiteracy a dose of cure…”the primary focus of its hands-on approach has been encouraging children to view reading as a form of entertainment.

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You can help the Read Across Jamaica Foundation (RAJF) continue its work in disadvantaged rural communities of Jamaica by giving the Gift of Literacy.

Your tax-deductible contributions to RAJF help facilitate their program across the island.

  • Become a Member.

  •  Sponsor a School.

  •  Volunteer.

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Ja’nice Wisdom,  Project Coordinator

Go to http://www.readacrossja.com/  for more information or

contact Ja’nice Wisdom  at (202) 285-4673.

Sponsorships welcome.

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Become a Literacy Ambassador 
Share a book with a child and give illiteracy a dose of cure…

About the author

metinking

I am an entrepreneur whose focus is on helping small businesses deploy internet marketing tools to leverage new customers and profits. I believe in the survival of the knitted, and thus champion those who are making a difference in our community.