There are still bedrooms and living rooms around Malta without a single book in sight

While there is a good deal more awareness about the importance of reading than a few years ago, there is still much to be achieved

Literacy is a little bit like air. It’s a basic and essential element of our lives
Literacy is a little bit like air. It’s a basic and essential element of our lives

In 2014 we launched the National Literacy Strategy through the newly set up National Literacy Agency as one of our first policy initiatives.

The idea was a very simple one – to treat literacy as an important element in the field of social inclusion. Concrete measures were needed in order to ensure that everybody had the opportunity to obtain the skills required for them to participate fully in society.

The policy centred around bilingualism – Maltese and English – and fostering an ecosystem which is conducive to promoting balanced literacy teaching and learning, where the technical aspects of reading and writing are taught in the context of meaning through text.

More than 100 proposals were put forward and we are now seeing the fruit of these initiatives. Literacy, and the acquisition of literacy, are complex issues which require a strong commitment from parents, care-givers, highly dedicated professionals and society at large. Our strategy adopted a lifelong perspective, with a clear emphasis on the first and early years.

Our bilingual status is a rich asset for us in many ways. We need to strengthen further this status by ensuring that our children and young people have appropriate exposure to both languages. Our educators need to keep developing and fine-tuning their language teaching and learning methods to enthuse students and to motivate them to learn more, through the use of technology and beyond.

The Read with Me reading programme, in Maltese and English, has reached more than 4,100 families while the Magic of Stories programme reached almost 4,000 families in 2018 alone.

Perhaps the one that got most attention was Reading Ambassadors. It happens throughout the year, with visits to classrooms in primary and secondary schools. Iconic people, men and women who our children aspire to, reading books is a very good option to have. Setting this example brings the context of reading in a much more positive light. Since 2014 a total of 190 sessions by 30 different Reading Ambassadors have taken place. I cannot thank them enough for giving their time and energy.

These are just a few of many programmes and initiatives launched. Others include The Pleasure of Stories, for children aged 7 to 11, the Footballers Read and Write programme, the work done in the digital sphere through new apps and music productions, the Reading Recovery programme, the Skejjel Rakkontaturi programme, and the Symbol Literacy programme. This is notwithstanding an investment of one million euros for 153,000 books, so that accessibility to books in classrooms is easier.

Literacy is a little bit like air. It’s a basic and essential element of our lives. One cannot talk about social justice and equality without the basic foundation of what makes us human. Very often in the past we have not given literacy enough attention. For some it worked, but others, who did not have the means or the accessibility, lost out.

By far the biggest highlight of all this is the way our reading programmes have integrated with families. The fact that parents and grandparents have become involved is very important.

It’s not just about the child anymore; there is something for everyone.

While there is a good deal more awareness about the importance of reading than a few years ago, there is still much to be achieved. There are still bedrooms and living rooms around Malta without a single book in sight. There is more work to do.

Lastly, I would like to thank all those who have contributed in helping make all this happen.

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