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Reading for living and for productivity

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As the publisher of a newspaper, it only stands to reason that we should share in the concern being expressed publicly about the degree to which reading skills are being developed in our society and, furthermore, the extent to which they are being utilized.{{more}}

It is an issue once more brought to the fore over the past week. An official of the Ministry of Education, speaking at the conclusion of the Courts national reading competition, in voicing that concern, reminded all and sundry that: “reading is a fundamental tool, needed in this day and age to create or have any advancement in this world.”

Generally, the modern world has been characterised by the advance of literacy, with levels continuing to rise. We in the Caribbean, and St Vincent and the Grenadines in particular, can be proud to be part of this development; though we must never be complacent in this regard. In addition, as we were reminded on the occasion mentioned above, we need to continue to focus on those “still struggling to read at a standard level,” and to be aware that “many students are not meeting minimum standards.”

That concern does not only relate to the formal education system but, in a much wider sense, should be extended to the degree to which the reading skill is being employed as part of our daily lives. Today, we are blessed with many more opportunities to learn to read and the provision of a range of reading materials that our forebears could not even have contemplated in their wildest dreams. But those opportunities are not employed to the best of our advantage.

A variety of reasons have been put forward to explain this under-utilisation of our reading skills. Most of these are related to the advancement of modern technology, especially the prevalence of, and easy access to, hand-held devices. Books are becoming less and less a part of the modern armoury. But while this is true, particularly where the younger generation is concerned, even before the advent of the hand-held devices, the growing presence of television was gnawing away at our reading time.

This has implications for our ability to probe beyond the provision of instant information, and to try and analyse and absorb. It also reflects on our concentration levels. Serious reading seems to be in decline with all the negative repercussions. Among these is the ability to grasp what we read.

In earlier times, comprehension, understanding what one reads, was an important part of our general education. There is reason to believe that we are becoming less and less discerning, not willing to probe beneath the surface. It is a development manifested in our everyday life, and often demonstrated in our approach to issues of national importance.

These are matters which should concern not only our educators, but the wider society as a whole, which we should ventilate publicly so that appropriate approaches to amelioration could be explored.

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