Rebecca Tortello and the “Book Start Jamaica Project”


In Jamaica, November is being celebrated as Parent Month, under the theme “Parent the Right Way: Read with your Child Every Day.” For next year, the Ministry of Education has plans to launch a project called “Book Start Jamaica” as part of the Ministry’s thrust to improve literacy.  

During a recent “Think Tank” session at the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) in Kingston, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Education (MOE), Dr. Rebecca Tortello explained that the Ministry believes that literacy is one of the most critical areas of education needing attention. She said that, if the funding pans out for the “Book Start Jamaica Project,” every new mother, regardless of the socio-economic level, will receive a book bag with books to read to their children. The plan is to encourage children and parents to value books, and to value reading to create a bond with each other from sharing stories. The ministry also aims to persuade parents to join libraries, and help their children to become good readers.

Dr. Tortello said that they would like children “to start formal schooling at grade one as emergent readers, and be able to recognize print in their environment, so that when they reach school, the teachers can start from there and build on the strength of an emergent reader.”

nannyTortello holds a Ph.D. in comparative education and sociology from Teachers College, Columbia University and a Masters in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A graduate of Harvard College and a former classroom teacher, Rebecca’s research interests include the sociology of schooling in international contexts, the relevance of informal education and museum education, and education reform and child welfare in the Caribbean. She also has a special interest in children’s literature and Jamaican history. She is the author of books such as Pieces of the Past: A Stroll down Jamaica’s Memory Lane and Nancy and Grandy Nanny, which was recommended by the MOE for use in primary schools in Jamaica. 

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