Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports
Release Date:
Monday, 12 October 2020 - 5:09pm

Honourable Natalio Wheatley
The Minister of Education Speech for
Reading is Fun Week Opening Ceremony

Sunday 11th October 2020

Any person who puts a book in the hands of a young child, is a person who is confident that the child will change the future.  “To read is to empower, to empower is to write, to write is to influence, to influence is to change, to change is to live.” –unknown

During the 1960’s empowered individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and our very own Noel Lloyd were able to activate social and political change that empowered the disenfranchised and gave hope of equality in life.  Their actions affect us even today.  The knowledge that these great men gained through reading not only empowered themselves but the generations that follow them.  The theme for this year’s Reading is Fun Week is, Read to Empower.  The word ‘empower’ means to give authority to somebody, or to make more confident or assertive. Reading therefore gives authority or confidence to us individually, to our future generations and ultimately to our nation.

First, I believe that reading empowers us individually.  It is important for each of us to read so that we can successfully enter and remain in the ever changing job market.  Global changes dictate new knowledge in technology, medicine, and approach to education.  These areas are essential to continued survival in the ‘new’ world.  As a result of COVID-19, everyone is forced to use technology to survive, which has opened a new world of information access for many people.  Most jobs now require at least a basic knowledge of technology which means the employee must avail him or herself of the requisite skill. 

We also note during this time people are concerned more about their health and having an adequate health system available to them.  Reading is therefore crucial so that everyone may follow instructions or access information that will help them live healthy productive lifestyles.  Naturally, this can translate into financial security for each working person.  The ability to adapt to these changes plays a vital role.

Furthermore, the way we now learn requires us to read more and diversify our approaches to what we read, when we read and the source of what we read.   Critical analysis and media literacy are even more essential now to decipher truth from falsehood, misinformation or miseducation and to determine relevant, factual information that can be used. The people who will survive post COVID are the people who read today to face the evolving challenges of tomorrow. 

Secondly, our decision to read as individuals will affect the next generation.  Former President Barack Obama said, “Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible.”  Without the ability to read, our children, will be devoid of crucial information that will help them and our country survive in years to come.  Our children may dream of space travel but may not even get into university to study science and technology if they cannot read and read well. If we truly love our children, create a culture of reading and a love of reading by modeling the behavior you want them to follow.  Provide meaningful experiences for them that will help build their background knowledge and make sense of the world around them.  Take them on trips, hikes, explore the back yard, and observe people and nature.  Engage the children in meaningful conversations about the world and the books they read.  Guide them through their thinking process as they try to formulate answers to life’s questions.  Surround them with books, whether online or hard copies.  Let them become familiar with words and nuances of language so that they can better understand and converse effectively with their global counterparts on a deeper and more meaningful level.  The only way we can influence the next generation is if we change our actions today.  Let today be our point in history that will determine the positive future for our children and the BVI.

Finally, I believe that reading empowers us as a nation.  It is important that everyone has an input in the future development of the BVI.  The only way we can make informed decisions that will affect generations to come is if we all read and instill a love for reading in our children.  It is only then that we can discuss, challenge, and decide on the best paths to follow.  The challenges that we face dictate that we review and restructure our approach to all areas of our lives.  Research and analysis is fast becoming our norm.  We cannot afford to make haphazard decisions that will jeopardize our beloved country and ultimately our ability to live in a changing world.

If we empower this generation, they will write our stories, our laws, our policies, and our financial plans.  They can be the ones to discover new technologies and cures for diseases.  They can be the leaders in the world of education on all levels.  An empowered generation is the backbone of an empowered nation.  I dare you to become empowered and empower those around you. Read to survive, read to live, read to empower.

I now declare Reading is Fun Week 2020 officially open.