The Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), a passionate and voluntary youth-led development institution organized a Reading Contest and launched its Reading Enrichment Program for 2013 on December 14, 2012 at the Billie Call Christian Institute ideally located in Wood Camp, Paynesville City.
The program which was held under the theme "Cultivating Interest in Reading" brought together scores of elementary and secondary students including a host of other dignitaries.
The Reading Contest was intended to recognize and inspire elementary students, who have demonstrated excellence in reading familiar materials and as well motivate others to cultivate reading as a way of life. The contestants were drawn from elementary schools and read standardized textbooks for at most ten minutes in accordance with grade level or above.
Besides, the Reading Enrichment Program which is expected to kick-start January 2013 aims to mobilize and nurture the culture of reading through free tutorial classes, recreational activities and sports. This program is designed for three days a week and meant to educate and enlighten pupils to have fundamental reading and speaking skills.
Speaking during the event, YES executive director, Stephen B. Lavalah revealed that reading has declined drastically among Liberians with vast majority being young people. He stated that reading proficiency has fallen due to most parents' unwillingness to read to their children, inadequate library in schools and public domains, insufficient reading materials across the country, high rate of illiteracy coupled with functional illiteracy and lack of appropriate programs to promote interest in reading.
The YES boss recounted that reading is an integral part of education and needs to be taken seriously in every aspect of life. He said reading promotes academic excellence, improves basic speech skills, enhances better communication techniques, and increases new experience and also fosters discipline.
He further noted: "Readers are more likely to become leaders and authors, and as a matter of fact, a reader is more likely to exercise, go to sports games, and as well more likely to be aware of and involve in community services"
Meanwhile, YES executive director is encouraging parents and guardians to begin to read novel, short story, poem or dramatic work in a book, magazine, newspaper or online to their children so as to inspire them to become reader with strong foundation of academic excellence. He stressed that all institutions of learning should embark on the process of ensuring the provision of libraries with up-to-date text books, literary materials and newspapers so as to enlighten students to become tolerant and critical thinkers.
The Youth Advocate is at the same time calling on the Government and its international partners to begin to invest in research and publication in order to motivate more Liberian writers to start applying for grant so as to minimize the deficit of readable products in other parts of the country. He also urged the Government and other partners to capacitate grassroots organizations to implement strategic and worthwhile programs that would cultivate interest in reading.
For his part, the founding Managing Partner of The Khana Group, a leading international development advisory firm focusing on Africa and co-founder of Liberian Professional Network and ONE Liberia, two of the largest Liberian Diaspora organization, Taa Wongbe referred to reading as a path to success. The youthful speaker admonished Liberian students not to only read what they have been forced to read like lecture notes and assignments, but to concentrate on reading diverse books, magazines and other publications with the intention of acquiring knowledge.
Taa cautioned young people to make reading a habit and always read different writings that would further prepare and equip them with the tools to accomplish specified tasks. He emphasized that everyone should take reading as fun and read with comprehension. The youth activist further urged Liberian to try as much as possible to read newspapers and other materials every day with the aim of being acquainted with some contemporary issues.
The youth leader disclosed that reading makes people knowledgeable to become good citizens to better their communities and make informed decisions for the common good of all. He recounted how reading inspired him to pursue his career path as a social worker and an entrepreneur.
Taa aroused the audience to recite a pledge with the purpose of committing themselves to read something new every day. He launched the Reading Enrichment Program which is expected to kick-start January 2013 and promised his organizations' commitment to working with YES to cultivate interest in reading.
In a brief remark, Moses Garzeawu of the Liberia Broadcasting System narrated his personal achievements most acquired through reading. "It is because of reading, today, I can see the President of the Republic of Liberia and other government officials and even go to very important places" Moses explained.
He said reading needs time and patience and called on students to pay keen attention to reading as it is the nucleus of education. Moses stressed that students should as well focus on improving their writing skills.
At the close of the Reading Contest, Dorothy Weah, a third grader of Siloam Pentecostal Mission School and Amelia Diggs, a six grade student of the Billie Call Christian Institute emerged as first and second place winners respectively. The students and school administrators commended YES for the initiative and pleaded that the contest should continue to other parts of the country.