Reading has been on the decline in the Jamaican society and in particularly in many of the nation’s schools for quite a while. We live in a world and indeed a society where cultural norms are changing almost daily. As the technology develops more and more of our students are acquiring the latest gadgets and in the process leaving little or no time for recreational reading. Many of our students and adults alike have what is obviously an obsession with listening to music mainly of a specific genre. It has become a rarity to see a student or adult reading a novel and or text in our public spaces. The declining rate in literacy is more pronounced at the secondary level of the education system. This fall in reading level can be attributed to among other factors the non existence of a standardized national literacy test at the secondary level of the education system.

What is required is a monumental and radical shift by the nation’s policy makers to encourage more of our students to read.  We need to examine the possibility of including a Grade Seven Literacy Test (GSLT) and or a Grade Eight Literacy Test (GELT) in the national curriculum. This will provide the impetus and motive all stakeholders to do more in improving the literacy scores of our students.

There is an urgent need to for us constantly access and monitor our students. Additionally, we need to develop policies that emerge from empirical data to improve the educational outcome of our students and also the education system.

In establishing a national literacy test at the secondary level we would be able to track the progress or lack thereof of each student. The fact that each student already has a profile by the time he/she reaches the secondary level would make this process easier. This would make it quite easy to make a comparison of the student’s score on their Grade Four Literacy Test; this score could then be compared to the scores attained in later literacy tests done by each student. Appropriate remedial work could then be done to address the needs of specific students. Our literacy specialists would benefit greatly since they would have additional knowledge to carry out their mandate as they work with their students.   

It is foolhardy to think that an increase in literacy specialists is tantamount to improving reading levels. We need an infusion of all subject teachers to do more reading in the content area. We also need to reduce the student/teacher ratio in our schools to manageable levels where teachers can be more effective in working with challenged students. For example, having one reading specialist to a class of thirty (30) students will not achieve the desired outcome of improving reading levels of all pupils. Each student requires individual attention.

The major obstacle to Jamaica’s progress and development is the breakdown of family life. There are too many splintered families in the society. Yes the times are challenging and the resources of the State are limited, however, there is an urgent need for educators to do more. We need to redouble our efforts to incorporate the use of authentic forms of literacy, such as, close reading, analysis, discussion and writing to improve the reading outcome of our students. While we are unable to slow the pace of the ever changing technology, we must explore all possibilities to raise the levels of literacy in our nation’s schools.

Splintered Family is a term coined by the author Wayne Campbell to describe a family type in which the head of the family changes rapidly to coincide with the prevailing circumstances of that family. For example, an older sibbling is head of the household at a given moment, the next moment an aunt/uncle or even an older friend of the family becomes the provisional head of the family structure. It is the absence of any sustained and responsible adult supervision.The term also refers to a family type in which there is no obvious head of the household.