Of recent, I have come to understand more than ever that Guyana as a nation of some seven hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants is way behind in reading, and when I say reading, I don’t specifically mean reading the daily newspapers or reading a text book on Politics, Mathematics or English, or even computers.
In January 2013 I wrote a letter to several newspaper editors about the need to create a reading revolution. Some connected with the concepts I raised in that letter, and others appeared to be nonchalant.
I am not in any way alarmed at the responses I received; I am more encouraged than ever before, in that I got a call from the Office of the President in the person of Major General (rtd) Joseph Singh.
At the time I was planning to launch a project entitled: ‘Creating a Reading Revolution’ and the visit to the Office of the President and speaking with Major General (rtd) Singh were refreshing and very instructive. We went through his thoughts on rededicating ourselves to building a nation and society of which we can all be proud, and as a church leader I was especially challenged with his thoughts.
He said that churches of all denominations are mostly preaching to the converted and look with a jaundiced eye or blinkered vision at the young men and women outside of religions’ comfort zone, who are stranded on the highways and byways of life.
They are unlikely to be on the radar of any social service or law enforcement agency until they commit a crime or misdemeanour, become wards of court or are shipped off to the New Opportunity Corps. These perhaps are the more fortunate ones who hopefully will derive benefits from the counselling, guidance, remedial education and vocational training to which they would be exposed for the duration of their stay.
But after that, what? The recruiters are waiting to initiate them into the criminal syndicates, if the after care and job placements are not available.
The gentleman must have attended the same school as this writer, for I indeed launched the project.
Another Guyanese of distinction has facilitated this launch in the person of Capt Gerry Gouveia of Duke Lodge, Duke Street, Kingston, where on the eve of Father’s Day, June 15, we started a journey to reach a particular group of persons described by the Major Gen (rtd), ie, those on the highways and byways, with a reading revolution. We are convinced that reading is in essence the epicentre of a nation’s development, progress and maturity.
In today’s context those on the highways are the ones with little opportunity for success or prosperity: the unemployed, the underemployed, the dropouts, the outcasts, the losers in society, the marginalized, people without earning power.
I was one of those on the highway who was rescued! So I know what I am talking about. Guyanese need to understand that the government of the day can only do so much and no more in the development of their lives.
We as individuals must be inspired to do better and be innovative and creative, and that will only start by reading an inspiring book that will lift us beyond the natural scope and mode of income and bring us into a new exciting and exhilarating reality of a changed mindset.
This nation has seen enough of poverty, crime and violence and if the Church stopped and analysed the situation, the diagnoses would reveal that the reason for crime and violence being on the increase is because there has been a decrease in knowledge (increase in ignorance) which ultimately leads to poverty. The only way to effectively deal with poverty is to inspire people to read the right kind of materials ‒ material that is based on truth, justice, purity, honesty, beauty, nobility and virtue is the prime aspect of our reading practice that will contribute to our own progress, prosperity and maturity.
Today, I met a woman by the name of Mary in a doctor’s clinic; she was American and was of a good age. She was reading an inspiring book written by a Guyanese. But here is my observation. Within the waiting area there is much reading material, mostly men and women’s magazines that speak volumes about stars, singers, scandals and stories of the popular names in the world of fashion, fun and folic. And here among all the reading material there is someone who is reading an inspiring book.
Reading needs to be encouraged even within families and among friends, in that when someone reads a book they should pass it on to someone else who may very well benefit in ways that are good. Finally, I appeal to my fellow Ministers of the Gospel to give heed to reading, not only in relation to the intelligent and learned members of the congregation, but also the needy.
In so doing they may very well be contributing to creating a reading revolution in their communities which will ultimately lead to a nation and society of which we can all be proud.
Apostle Vanrick Beresford