Good afternoon. As a former teacher, I can’t tell you how delighted I am to be here today to launch the USAID Innovating Activity. USAID’s purpose is to support the Ministry of Education in harnessing the power of parents, family and communities to improve reading for all children in Ghana.
One of our top development priorities is to work with the Ghanaian government to improve reading skills in the early grades of primary school. Improving literacy is a high stakes undertaking in a nation’s development. On the individual level, reading skills open doors to academic success from primary school to junior high and high school, and then to technical and vocational training, university study, and beyond. Research shows that improving literacy leads to a stronger workforce, greater individual economic power, and higher earning potential for both men and women. A literate population is more socially, politically and peacefully engaged. Literacy is a necessary ingredient for national development in the modern world.
But the true impact of reading is also quite personal. Reading changed my life. When I was growing up, books opened me up to the wider world, and ignited in me the passion to serve my country. Before I became a diplomat, I was a teacher. I was privileged to see my students read to expand their minds, discover new aspirations, and become contributing citizens in vibrant democracies.
I am proud of the U.S. partnership with the Ministry of Education. Together, we are working to improve the quality of basic education in Ghana. I would like to take this moment to commend the Ministry of Education for its vision to improve learning achievement in the early grades of primary school, so Ghanaian children can thrive.
However, improving classroom instruction is not enough. Children spend the majority of their day outside the classroom. To become good readers, they need to practice in their homes and communities, as well. USAID’s Innovating activity will facilitate a culture of reading in the community and the home. We will partner with the media to publicize the benefits of reading at home, and team up with civil society and the private sector to encourage reading throughout the community. We will also provide 800 grants to communities in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Western, Volta and Northern Regions so they can come up with locally owned and culturally effective ways to get Ghana reading.
The real work, however, lies with you — leaders, teachers, mothers, fathers, children, and community members. To all the chiefs here today — encourage the members of your communities to take the time to read to their children, and to have their children read to them. To all educators — impart to your students the joy and discipline of reading. To all the parents here, make sure your child has access to books and knows how important it is to read. Finally, children, make time after school and on the weekends to read and complete your homework assignments. It is the best investment you can possibly make in your future, and once you get started, I promise, it will be extremely fun.
The respected Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan once said, “Literacy is the road to human progress, and the means through which every man, woman, and child can realize his or her full potential.” I agree wholeheartedly. I look forward to working with all of you to foster a culture of reading in Ghana — so that all Ghanaian children are reading and thriving.