The Little Things….

The little things that happen in early childhood shape our lives. Already as a very young child, I could read and write. Mostly, this was my mother’s achievement. She understood the importance of Early Childhood Education and diligently read the ABC to me every day from the time I was a baby.

There was no Kindergarten in the Arctic islands where we lived. By the age of 3, I would run away from the babysitter, bolt off to school in my little red boots and open all the classroom doors until I eventually found my mother or father who were both teachers.

More often than not, I would end up as a tiny observer in my mother’s classroom. Under strict instructions not to speak, I would sit there year after year and watch her draw the letters in upper and lower case on the blackboard. Every once in a while, my mum would give me a clean sheet of paper so I could copy the letters off the blackboard like the 1st grade children. I will always remember how important that single sheet of paper made me feel.

At the age of 4, I wrote a letter to my friend in my mother’s cookbook sitting at the kitchen counter while she was baking bread. At the age of 5, I was helping my friend and classmate, who suffered from a learning disability, with his ABC’s.

My experience has convinced me that every child can learn, given the right opportunity, materials and guidance. It has made me realise how important teachers like my mum are to every small community, regardless where in the world they may be. Between the ages of 2 – 5, our brain is like a sponge. These are golden years for learning.

22% of Jamaica’s children live below the poverty line. Due to the Covid pandemic, they are facing increasing challenges and being deprived of face-to-face learning. Moreover, the digital divide is becoming ever wider as classes are moving online and a huge number of children are missing out on their education due to the lack of internet connection, coverage, gadgets and affordability.

School books and educational supplies like pencils and crayons are often unaffordable for many of Jamaican children. This is particularly true in remote, interior areas, where up to 100% of the children have no access to books or supplies. Some rely on exclusively on the books and materials in our book bags for the entire year.

During one week in October, 545 children at 8 schools in St. James parish received book bags from Books4Kids Jamaica. This year, our program will reach more than 7,000 children. It is a true blessing and privilege to be able to help each and every child feel special. Even if their smiles are covered by face masks this year, their joy and curiosity is still palpable.

Now more than ever, these children need our care and love.