British Ambassador Attaches Importance to Reading

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Ambassador Cochrane-Dyet and Ms Duncan chatting .jpg

British Ambassador to Liberia, Mr. Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, has underscored the need for parents to encourage their children—especially their teenagers— to engage in good reading habits.

Speaking January 27, at a brief ceremony marking the opening of children’s reading room established by the Association for the Advancement of Liberian Girls (AALG), Ambassador Cochrane-Dyet stressed that in almost every part of the world today there are devices and activities diverting children’s minds from reading.

He pointed out the emergence of digital technology as a key factor to modern children’s disregard for reading; as they often give preference to Facebook and video games amongst other distractions.

The British Diplomat— who also contributed an unspecified amount to this project— indicated that he and his wife are also parents, and as such feel the need to contribute to anything that relates to children’s welfare.

He noted that reading opens children to new ideas while broadening their vocabulary and that parents should do all in their power to make reading a central part of their children’s lives.

He urged parents to get their children take at least ten minutes to read a book every night before going to sleep; which according to him would strengthen their children’s foundation in reading.

Also speaking at the ceremony was the Belgian Honorary Consul and Country Manager of Brussels Airlines to Liberia, Frederic Vloeberghs, who said reading is paramount (highly important) to the upbringing of successful and confident children; and that an emphasis on good reading habits at the preliminary stages of childhood was a must for a stronger society.

He assured the AALG group that he would help them to attain suitable reading materials for their young beneficiaries. He said he would convince some of his friends to send him books after they have been replaced in their personal libraries.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer, the head of the Association for the Advancement of Liberian Girls (AALG), Stephanie Salamartu Duncan, said she came up with the idea to establish a reading room for children while she was in the United States. She explained her reason for this was because she grew up with a love of reading and wanted to help Liberian children develop a similar passion for the written word.

She stressed that when she returned to Liberia, there was no children’s library to orientate them in reading; and therefore decided to start one. “This is free for the children; no one is going to pay money for coming here to read,” she asserted.

Acknowledging the absence of television and other learning devices in many homes across Liberia, Ms Duncan said providing an opportunity for children to read would open them to another world.

Generally speaking, Ms. Duncan said the attitude toward reading in Liberia is very poor; however, she said the nation’s current generations of children are more interested in reading than those before them. She expressed hope they would make use of the program to improve their reading skills.

She disclosed that AALG currently has two reading centers in Monrovia, one in Congo Town and the other recently launched in Sinkor near the National Investment Commission (NIC).

According to Ms. Duncan, other areas have been identified in Gardnersville, Paynesville and Caldwell to establish reading rooms so children there can benefit.

She then called on Liberians willing to help volunteer their services to the program for the benefit of Liberian children.

The reading program covers preschool children up to sixth grade.  AALG’s boss said they need people who would teach the children reading and how to phonetically pronounce words to the understanding of listeners.

Meanwhile, the establishment of reading rooms for children by AALG complements an initiative undertaken by the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Education to launch a national reading program for students.

It can be recalled that in 2013 the Ministry of Education launched a national reading program to allow schools to attach importance to student’s reading.

Already being described by the President as a “mess,” the education system of Liberia is full of challenges; with many students graduating from high school and universities still unable to compose a simple sentence or read.

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