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Moms for Literacy team hard at work preparing material for tutoring sessions

For close to 30 years, Moms for Literacy has been doing much-needed work in developmental reading to improve education outcomes in Trinidad and Tobago. Founded out of a recognised need by mothers, the organisation has recently shifted their classes and programmes to online modules, which allows their young participants to safely continue learning to read with a view to overall personal development.

As one of the first remedial reading schools in the country, the organisation recognises that many parents who require classes for their children today face job losses and pay cuts. Still, it is one of the core tenets of Moms for Literacy that no child should be denied the opportunity to learn.

Founder and Programme Director Amber Gonzales echoed this: “We are currently in our summer enrolment period which in years before would see large enrolment volumes. The economic downturn however means that there is less household income for areas such as extra classes. But given our commitment to this vision, we do our best to work with corporate sponsors like bmobile so that those parents who can only afford part of our tuition can still access the needed classes for their child.”

Tuition is one of the few ways Moms for Literacy earns an income as they do not receive significant funding or subventions otherwise.

bmobile has long valued the need to support pillars in youth education and has, since 2010, worked with Moms for Literacy in areas of sponsorship and training. This year, the home-grown communications solution provider will support parents who lack funding in these challenging times.

Gerard Cooper, General Manager Shared Services at TSTT, highlighted their commitment to this cause “We understand that the shift to online schooling in the last year is one more issue for many parents and children to contend with at home. As such, additional classes that focus on developing reading, comprehension and other language skills are sometimes the one crucial link that can lead to improvement in overall grades at school and overall development of the whole person, particularly in early education. We are happy to see organisations like Moms for Literacy continue to offer this and we are happy to do our part to support their work and the needs of parents at this time too.”

As an avid reader and learner, Gonzales started the idea of Moms for Literacy with a friend, at first selling books to inspire children to read outside of the schools’ curriculums.

“We quickly found that it was not a lack of interest for many children but an actual inability to read,” she recalled.

They placed a small ad for remedial reading classes at a local business in 1992 and soon were overwhelmed with demand. The organisation went on to receive a National Award for Public Service in Education in 2005.

Gonzales noted that much more needs to be done from her work in our national communities to improve our approach to education as a country.

“While we tend to focus on children that test in the 30 per cent score for reading, we also have to recognise that there are children moving into Secondary Schools and higher education with grades that are bare passes in the 50 per cent range too,” she said.

“Our vision has always been that concentrating on development of reading and writing skills at the Standard 2-3 level is the best approach to ensure that children can see improvements in all other areas of study. After the age of nine, it can often be doubly difficult for the child to develop these skills. We need to consider the scientific aspects of education in areas like the neuroplasticity of the brain.

“Many times, parents will be asked to take a child to a psychologist at some expense to look for a learning disability but when we work with the child, we recognise that they are very developed, very smart in other areas. They simply need the additional help in the area of reading, comprehension, writing and understanding – which is the core of all education,” she advised.

Gonzales also recalled being part of a programme in Philadelphia, USA, a few years ago that worked with children with brain damage to bring them back to levels of education close to their age range.

“The Institute for Achievement of Human Potential worked, in some cases, with children that no one else would and saw great results. I urge parents not to give up on their child and to seek out whatever support they need to ensure that their child is equipped with these skills for life,” she concluded.