The VM Foundation has contributed one million dollars ($1,000,000) in support of the Jamaica Library Service’s (JLS) flagship programme, the National Reading Competition. The donation, which was made at a symbolic handover and contract signing ceremony held recently, represents a new partnership between the two entities aimed at amping up the island-wide promotion of literacy across all age groups.
The competition, in its 35th year, has aligned with the national messaging of Jamaica’s Jubilee Celebration, and is being held under the adapted theme, Reigniting A Nation to Read. Like many other programmes, the National Reading Competition saw a 2-year decline in the number of participants due to the widespread impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking at the handover ceremony, Maureen Thompson, Director General of the Jamaica Library Service, lauded the VM Foundation for what she described as a nation-building targeted sponsorship which will make the programme offering even greater.
“I would like to express my gratitude to the VM Foundation for acknowledging the commonalities in both our mandates as we play our part in contributing to national development. The funds received will afford us the opportunity to refresh and reenergise the competition as well as give participants a bigger and better experience,” she said.
In addition to the development of critical reading skills through the engagement of various genres of literature, the 2022 staging of the competition will benefit from an added financial literacy component. CEO of the VM Foundation, Samantha Charles, detailed VM’s involvement:
“While the JLS will lend its expertise toward language literacy, the VM Foundation, through the VM FETE (Financial Education to Empower) programme will focus on the financial literacy component. All registrants will be fully engaged in a series of expertly tailored, age-appropriate financial well-being sessions geared towards equipping them with important money management principles. ”
Charles continued: “The topics to be covered include savings and budgeting, investing, car and home ownership, credit and debt management and retirement planning. Our aim for the partnership is that participants will leave feeling empowered to engage with more literature and at the same time, have a renewed outlook on their finances.”
Also weighing in at the ceremony was Senior Director of the Jamaica Library Service, Kishma L. Simpson, who underscored the importance of reading in a country aspiring to greatness:
“I can’t imagine if you have an inability to read that anything else is achievable. Reading is critical. Reading is beyond relevant. And our greatest achievers and leaders, including those who would have avidly participated in the competition, have all attributed reading as the cornerstone of their personal and professional development.”
Simpson was also keen to note that contrary to popular belief, Jamaicans read a lot. “The problem is that many interpret reading to mean only reading a novel,” she said.
She continued: “We include different kinds of literature and find creative ways of making the competition as exciting as possible. This includes prose and poetry-based crossword puzzles, written questions, writing letters to friends and even book reviews, all geared towards developing participants’ critical and analytical skills.”
“Another cool feature of this year’s staging is that we have included even more Jamaican-authored literary works with participants getting the opportunity to dialogue with the writers whose texts they would have engaged with throughout the duration of the competition,” she added.
Highlighting the significance of the public-private collaboration between the two organisations, VM Foundation CEO Samantha Charles reiterated VM’s commitment to transforming lives through youth development and nation building initiatives.
“The country we want to see in 2030 and beyond relies heavily on the investment we make now. The VM Foundation is not just talk. The Jamaica Library Service is not just talk. We are doing what we best know how to do and bringing them both to the table to benefit our communities.”
The National Reading Competition caters to participants six years and over. Beginning at the branch level in each parish, the competition sees successful candidates moving on to compete against other parish champions before culminating in the national finals. The competition, which opened at the branch level in May, will see successful candidates vying for the top spot in Nationals from August 3 to 9. The announcement and award ceremony are scheduled for August 26 this year. The 2022 staging of the competition will see the participation of over 1600 Jamaicans.