Smiles and laughter filled a makeshift reading room as students from ten schools across Kingston, St. Andrew, and St Catherine eagerly participated in Digicel’s ‘Mek Wi Read Together’ Read Across Jamaica Day activity. The event held at its Delves Building headquarters in Downtown Kingston featured readings, dramatic and musical performances by veteran broadcaster, Fae Ellington, comedian Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley, and dub poetry and reggae group DREDZ.
Animated and bubbly, Ellington set the tone for the day’s activities as she read an excerpt from the book, ‘My Story 9.58: Being the World’s Fastest Man’, by Usain Bolt, and delivered a spirited rendition of “Love Poem” by the late Louise Bennett-Coverley. During her captivating reading session, “Auntie Fae”, as she’s affectionately called, aroused laughter, comments and questions from the 8-15 year-olds, including children with special needs.
Ellington noted, “It is important to share reading opportunities with younger people to inspire, influence and encourage them to learn things that they never knew about. During my reading, many of them learned for the first time what a tramcar is. Now, they can explore that further. I will always welcome any opportunity I have to work with Digicel and connect with the wider Jamaican community.”
Comedian Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley had students bursting with laughter as he demonstrated the important connection between reading and the dramatic arts through a stirring performance of an original piece entitled “Gateman” written by Owen ‘Blacka’ Ellis.
Daley commented, “Improving the literacy of children across Jamaica is paramount. I think that we all have a responsibility to give back in any way we can. One easy way to do that is to give your time and energy to get children more interested in reading. I hope that the students realise that reading opens windows and creates new options. It’s not just about reading a book, but also that it transports you to another place and expands your mind. I hope that at least one student will leave here inspired.”
The students’ literary journey took an exciting twist into the realm of the spoken word as members of the Dub Poetry group DREDZ Promotions (Drums, Rhythms, Expressions, Dynamic and Zeal) used rhythm, music and drama to emphasize the essential role reading plays in life.
Group member Rashiem Shepherd, a teacher, explained, “DREDZ is all about youth development and we support initiatives that promote reading. Jamaica has a literacy problem and so when we were invited by Digicel to contribute to this event we were happy to participate. I hope that the students leave here with the understanding that it is important to take time to read each day.”
Candiese Leveridge, Director of Corporate Communications at the Jamaica Library Service, invited participants and online viewers to participate in the National Reading Competition.
Director of HR, Christine Suragh, who opened proceedings commented, “I can think of so many reasons why we all need to learn how to read, but the most important one is to excel in school, build a career you enjoy, and explore and discover more of your imagination. As we reinforce the national Child Month theme, ‘I SOAR’ (Strive to Overcome Adversity with Resilience), we encourage every child to soar and excel in reading. Be of good courage and take every opportunity to read at least one book or article per day and challenge the knowledge around you.”
‘Mek Wi Read Together’ was streamed live on Digicel’s social media pages where hundreds of students across the island, including, St Richard’s Primary, Rollington Town Primary, Start Smart Early Childhood Institution, and Seaside Early Childhood Centre, tuned in to watch and enjoy.