Anthea McLaughlin is on a relentless mission to ensure that every child in Trinidad and Tobago is nurtured through reading, a cause which is facilitated by the Bridge Foundation." As founder and CEO, Mc Laughlin who lived in New York for many years has recently settled here where she operates her foundation. According to McLaughlin, the Bridge Foundation supports the development of young children through the promotion of literacy programmes that encourage early reading, facilitate critical skills for learning and implement evidenced-based practices that support the growth and development of young children. The foundation which now operates independently by its founder has emerged out of the internationally renowned Jump Start organisation, a leader in early childhood education in the United States since 1993 where McLaughlin was a former member. Throughout the years, it has seen volunteers serving more than one million of hours to over 70,000 children in need across the United States of America.
McLaughlin's latest project is Read for the Record Day, Global Celebration of Reading where Bridge Foundation joins JumpStart in promoting reading internationally on October 6th. "This will be done through the sponsorship and distribution of over 200 books to schools and early childhood centres to stimulate children's reading and to invest in innovative early literacy programs here in Trinidad and Tobago" said McLaughlin. She adds "The Read for the Record Day is a creative way to remind children of the fun, excitement and knowledge that they can gain through reading. Jumpstart created Read for the Record Day to promote early literacy, to bring awareness to the importance of early literacy and to place early literacy on the map, which often times receives little global attention or priority" Locally, October 6th will mark the participation of approximately 50 schools throughout the country, a vast improvement from last year which was also successful with more than 2,814 children in 28 schools participating from early childhood centres and primary schools across the country.
On October 6th the children will read a Jumpstart selected book called Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney and a Caribbean authored book selected by the Bridge Foundation called Grommit: My Life and Times by Andy Campbell. So how will local schools approach this project? "Here in Trinidad, schools are encouraged by the Foundation to independently promote reading in assembly halls, in classrooms, and even in art classes where they will be asked to draw what they have read. Many of our local schools already have dedicated reading times during each school day and many will incorporate the reading of both books during school reading time" said McLaughlin. For Bridge foundation's CEO, the response has been resoundingly positive, admitting that local feedback from principals and school officials have indicated their keen interest in promoting early literacy for children and an overall excitement for the children's participation in the project.
Apart from promotion Read for the Record Day, Anthea is simultaneously working on another project called Read to Rise. This book exchange programme gently introduces collaborative reading at school and home while innovatively building school libraries. Read to Rise (RR) books supports authors from Trinidad and Tobago including the Caribbean region. Such a large scale project enlists the support of funding institutions and foundations that will help to donate books to participating schools (180 books per school) program will share books among each other, receive a special bag for books to take home, and schools will be able to use those books for their school libraries for all children to access. McLaughlin notes "reading with children promotes increased language development, better comprehension of story content and better understanding of language overall which later leads to literacy success". Anthea McLaughlin continues to lobby for social awareness through literacy of our young children and urges more corporate interest and funding to this cause. She is hopeful that the resources made available in the Caribbean together with her extensive exposure in the U.S. in this field will provoke positive change to this end. For more information call 376-4795.