Today, ALTA welcomes our long
standing partners at the National Library and Information System Authority
(NALIS) to outline their work in bridging the information and digital literacy
gap in Trinidad and Tobago.
NALIS: Supporting literacy for 23
Established by Act 18 of 1998, the
National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) celebrates its 23rd
Anniversary in 2021. During this time of our existence, we have been committed
to hosting and collaborating to produce literacy centred programmes and
activities, in fulfillment of our mandate to ‘promote literacy skills and
awareness in the use of library material and information services within the
community’ (NALIS Act 18 of 1998, pg. 7).
The types of literacy skills that
NALIS strives to foster in our users, goes beyond the development of reading
and writing competencies, which are skills that define literacy in its
traditional sense. In fact, our programmes develop computer, digital, media,
financial and information literacies. According to the International Federation
of Library Associations (IFLA, 2021), information literacy is the cornerstone
for lifelong learning. According to the American Library Association (1989) “to
be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is
needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed
information.” NALIS has successfully and continues to be committed to fostering
these various types of literacy skills in our users in order to meet their
diverse educational, cultural and recreational needs.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, NALIS
hosted numerous in-house programmes and activities to promote literacy
throughout our various publics, including storytelling, book clubs, reading
challenges, computer literacy classes and World Read Aloud Day activities. We
would have also partnered with various organisations to promote and develop
literacy and reading skills. The Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA) is
one of these organisations with which NALIS shares a long standing and profound
With the advent of the COVID-19
pandemic, NALIS like all other institutions in Trinidad and Tobago, in fact,
around the world; has had to pivot in making library and information services
accessible virtually. Further to this, as information seeking has moved to the online
realm, librarians are present on the front lines of the fight against
misinformation and disinformation, continuously seeking out new and more
effective ways of helping our various publics apply information literacy
principles to their everyday lives.
One group of persons that NALIS has
sought to assist is our senior citizens. Recognising that many seniors have
been left behind as technology has invaded all aspects of our lives, NALIS
sprang into action. In December 2020, the Digital Literacy for Seniors
initiative was piloted, then rolled out in January 2021. Through this
programme, senior citizens, our ‘golden members,’ are taught how to use
applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Zoom and the internet, to assist them
in their daily and routine activities.
Librarians within NALIS’ Educational
Library Services Division (ELSD) have also answered the call to assist students
and parents, who had been relegated to the online realm as the COVID-19
pandemic ravaged the world. Even though schools have been operating virtually
for almost two years, students are still struggling to cope with learning in an
online environment. In June 2021, the Navigating Online Learning series was launched,
with a goal to meet the information needs of students by focusing on developing
their research skills and using eLearning Management Systems such as Google
Classroom. The programme also assists parents in monitoring their child’s
performance on these online systems.
NALIS has a renewed commitment to support
the needs of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, by bridging the digital
divide and promoting literacy in all forms. By transcending the limitations of
our traditional brick and mortar spaces, NALIS continues to serve to ensure
that our nation is well equipped with persons who can confidently use
information to make informed decisions, solve problems and enrich their lives.
ALTA continues its focus on
the work of some of our peers in the literacy space. Today, we highlight our
friends at Let’s Read. Let’s Read is a registered non-governmental organization
with the aim of ensuring that every child regardless of location has the
opportunity to acquire literacy skills and books to reach their full potential.
At Let’s Read, we believe that
reading is the foundation of physical and emotional well-being, intellectual
growth and economic security. The importance of literacy development cannot be
understated and our mission to promote reading in schools and communities
Children and adolescents need
consistent access to good quality, relevant books at home and at school. Let’s
Read is working to get books in every child’s hands through four programme
Let’s Read donates age-appropriate books to
families of new-born babies attending medical check-ups with their
paediatrician, privately and through selected government clinics. Let’s Read’s
focus reinforces the importance of sharing books in the home from birth. Included
are guidelines for books from birth to 3, along with parent tips for book
sharing during the early years.
Research tells us that better school libraries result in more reading. Let’s Read partners with public primary schools to re-establish their library space so that students can explore a diverse selection of good quality books and enjoy reading for pleasure. It is Let’s Read’s hope that the library will become the focal point of the school and another space for children to learn. A space where children who struggle with reading, or just haven’t found the right book yet, can enjoy a book of their own free choice without the pressure that can sometimes be felt in the classroom. While schools have been closed due to the pandemic, the Let’s Read team has been reading aloud online to a number of children in our partner schools.
A Little Community Library is a “take a book,
return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the
most common version is a small wooden box of books placed strategically within
a community. Little Community Libraries encourage reading and strengthen
community ties through sharing and stewardship. It is Let’s Read’s aim to
partner with communities across Trinidad and Tobago, especially in remote areas
where children have few good books of their own at home and limited access to a
public library. It is Let’s Read’s expectation that the community members will
build the book sharing box, Let’s Read will donate a diverse collection of
books, provide a Little Community Library Handbook and ongoing guidance.
Reading is key to a child’s learning but 1 in 4
primary school students is a struggling reader. In order to adopt
research-based practices for teaching reading, teachers must be supported with
quality professional development that helps them develop an extensive knowledge
and skills base. After the reestablishment of a primary school library space,
Let’s Read’s qualified educators facilitate a workshop to acquaint the school’s
staff with the library space and encourage them to focus on researched-based
instructional practices linked to improved student literacy.
Let’s Read passionately believes that reading aloud to children before
they can even talk is one of the most important elements in literacy development.
It is important to read to and
with children for all the same reasons we should talk to them:
Reading aloud to children is an advertisement for
the wonder of print. It conditions their brains to associate reading with
positive feelings. It increases their general knowledge, improves their
vocabulary and helps them become better readers. Children discover the joy of
reading when exposed to a variety of books which get them excited about reading
and inspires them to want to do it more.
Join Lets Read in
igniting the love of reading in all children in Trinidad and Tobago, Let’s
Read. Contact them at email@example.com
At ALTA, we recognise our peers in literacy
education. This week we highlight the work of the Dyslexia Association, a
volunteer organization founded in 1990 by a group of teachers and parents
concerned for their dyslexic children.
The Dyslexia Association supports dyslexics,
parents and teachers, educates the wider community about this learning
difference and trains teachers in methods for teaching dyslexics. The
Association also aims to work with the Ministry of Education towards placing a
specially trained teacher in every school.
In an interview with Anya Aching, a young
person who has been navigating the world with dyslexia, Dyslexia Association Chairman
Cathryn Kelshall uncovers the process from assessment and early intervention, to
Cathryn Kelshall: Today we’re talking to Anya Aching, wonderful
artist who is also dyslexic.
So can you tell me how old you are?
AA: I’m 19 years old
CK: When did you first find out you were dyslexic?
AA: I first found out I was dyslexic in
primary school when I realized that I was having a bit of issues with spelling and
reading and just keeping up in class. So my mom took me to get assessed and
through my assessment, they recommended that I get some early intervention with
Christine David Lewis. So I did years of that.
CK: Wonderful. And in fact, she’s one of
our Dyslexia Association trained teachers. I know that you did very well in
school and all your CAPE exams. You were on the Caribbean Merit List twice. How
did you cope?
AA: I coped with school – and with
everything in general – by creating and by using my art to calm down, just calm
myself and refocus and take my mind off of school, because school is really stressful.
So that’s how I coped.
CK: Did you get any help in school?
AA: Yeah, I got a lot of help. My friends
are amazing. I really thought that I had to keep my dyslexia a secret around them,
but eventually I just told them and they were like, “Okay, cool. Tell me more.”
And I was like, “This is great!”
So I have a best friend, and she kind of
became my aid in school unknowingly. We just kind of gelled and she understood
me and she helped me a lot.
CK: So she helped you with notes?
AA: Yeah, she helped take all my notes and
then after school, she gave me a lot of help, kind of like lessons. But she
made it fun.
CK: What about coping with the amount of
reading you had to do?
AA: She had this thing where if we had a passage
to read, she would make me read a paragraph, and then she would read a paragraph,
and then I would read a paragraph. And if I got tired, then she would just
continue reading and make sure that I was focused and on-task.
CK: What a great friend – and you told me
that your mum also helped you with your reading.
AA: Yeah – my mom did a lot for me.
CK: So you did really well at school. What
are you doing now?
AA: Right now I’m a studio assistant at
CK: Does your dyslexia affect you in your
AA: Yeah, it does a lot. We’re able to use
our creativity in the studio all the time. And fun fact: everybody in the
studio is dyslexic!
CK: So you see that your dyslexia is
positive in your job?
AA: Yes, extremely.
CK: You’ve actually chosen a good job for dyslexics.
So what advice do you have for others?
AA: So I have advice for parents, teachers
and students. So for parents, if you notice your child has dyslexia then I
would recommend getting them assessed and getting some early intervention and
supporting them. That would go a long way.
And for teachers I recommend patience and
providing notes for the students because note taking is really hard. For students
or just kids in general, I would recommend putting your pride aside and asking
for help and don’t be ashamed of it. I used to be ashamed of it, but it’s
nothing to be ashamed about. Also find a support system. You don’t need a whole
group of people. It can just be one person.
CK: So wonderful! Dyslexia and proud – I
love it! Anya can you share with everybody the Dyslexia Association telephone
AA: You guys can call 281-READ (7323).
CK: Wonderful! Thank you so much Anya, for
coming in to talk to us.
AA: You’re welcome.
If you wish to find out more about “inspiring confidence through uniqueness”with the Dyslexia Association, contact
them at 281-READ or firstname.lastname@example.org .
is partnering with the Ministry of Digital Transformation to bring its online
instruction to more communities across Trinidad and Tobago. ALTA Online is a web-based programme designed
for independent use by persons ranging from preteens to adults who have
low-level reading and spelling skills. This interactive programme built around
Caribbean life skills content was developed by local software developers and is
the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.
work to bring literacy learning to the digital space dovetails well with the
Ministry’s vision of “the use of ICT for development that contributes to the
well-being of citizens.” Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Digital
Transformation, Mr. Richard Madray states that there is “close alignment
between the ALTA Online programme, and Government’s agenda for Digital
ALTA Founder and CEO,
Paula Lucie-Smith notes “One out of every four of our
adults can’t read this article. Literacy is required for participation in life
today, and as communication moves to the digital world, the literacy divide is
now compounded by the digital divide. ALTA
Online addresses both the literacy divide and the digital divide.”
Monday 1st November 2021, thanks to the Central Division Unit of the
TTPS, over 40 community members have signed up to access ALTA Online Level 1 at
the Todd’s Road ICT Access Centre, an initiative sponsored by Unicomer Trinidad
Limited. This opens an exciting
opportunity for increasing the literacy skills of a wider pool of students,
namely those living and working outside of major city centres, thereby
improving their ability to function in and contribute to society.
four-way partnership involves:
invites businesses to partner with us in providing funding for bringing
literacy to persons at the other 5 ICT centres:
Penal, Guayaguayare, Cumana, Marac and Carenage. At ALTA, we are
convinced that this partnership with the business community offers a strong
win-win proposition. On one hand, it enables ALTA to expand its catchment of
students thereby helping to increase basic and functional literacy in
communities across Trinidad and Tobago, while also opening a window for the
business community to contribute to a worthy cause that can promote social
cohesion and a more progressive society.
for the programme is evident in the feedback received from students and
am enjoying the lessons. It is really
helping and inspiring me. I am working
hard and I have my goals of where I would like to reach. I realize that the ALTA programme would help
me get there. There are some game
activities which is enjoyable. There are
also short videos to watch which I like.
I am keeping up good work”
ALTA programme has been going great for my son.
The structure is excellent in the way that he is able to use it by
himself. I believe that it is helping
him with the basic spelling and sounding of words. It is also helping him with his reading. I am seeing an improvement. He is on Book 2, so I am looking forward to
seeing more improvement in his school work and reading:
If you or someone you know is interested in
enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor,
call 624-2582 or email email@example.com.
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