I am pleased to be here in the sunshine community of Portmore to share in this year’s launch of the I Pledge Programme and also Reading Week.  I also look forward to interacting with the grade five students following this opening ceremony.

Commendations are due to Grace Kennedy Money Services, agents for Western Union. They have supported the education sector in a variety of ways.  For the past six years they have taken a multifaceted approach that seeks to strengthen reading and literacy skills among primary school children. Their Promise to Lend Encouragement to Develop Growth in Education programme, gives everyone the chance to join the staff of GraceKennedy Limited in this wonderful opportunity to read to children and interact with them and their teachers.

Let me tell you why I love the I Pledge programme: It is a practical and timely support of primary education in Jamaica. It makes partners of all of us who believe in doing our best to provide a good education for our children. It motivates us to keep our pledge to encourage our children to study well and read widely, since reading is a basic tool for a good education.   It also gives me the opportunity to interact with children, who hold a very special place in my heart.

I am pleased that this great programme extends beyond Reading Week.  The debating competition and teachers’ workshop continue to expose teachers to new strategies for teaching literacy. The added benefit of equipping schools with computers is one which I fully endorse.

This year’s theme: “A Great Reader makes a Great Leader,” reminds us that anyone who wants to hold a good position in any occupation, or even in the family, must read a lot!  There is so much information from which we can learn! Boys and girls, there is more information and knowledge available now than when I was your age. In my time at school, we had only few books and blackboards. Today, you can learn so much more from reading on your tablets and laptops!

I remember well the gem, “Books, like friends, should be few and well chosen.  Like friends too, we should return to them again and again for, like true friends, they will never fail us, never cease to instruct, never cloy.”

I know that everyone here wants to be a winner. We want to succeed in all that we do. I have a secret recipe to share with you: Children, you can become brighter than even your Principal if you become a great reader. Reading builds your mind and helps you to think wisely, so nobody can fool you! Do not short-change yourself and your chance of becoming a great leader.

Just ask any of the Executives here this morning, whether from GraceKennedy Group Limited, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association or your Principal.  They will tell you that they worked hard in school, paid attention in class and did their homework.  But most of all, they will tell you that they read widely.  One day you will be in their position and you begin preparing yourselves now by reading.

Jamaica will be in a better position to achieve its national goals if our people are so well educated that they can compete more effectively in the global market.  Marcus Garvey said that “it is by education that we become prepared for our duties and responsibilities in life…” So let us work together for the education that will build a strong Jamaica!

Ladies and gentlemen, our literacy rates are not where we want them to be. With so many competing interests, not the least of which are social media and video games, every one of us has to play our part in preparing Jamaica’s children for the future.

Now Boys and Girls, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Western Union is doing their part to improve reading and computer literacy in primary schools across Jamaica. Each child, each adult, each parent, guardian or teacher must do our part to squeeze all the benefits out of this project. Do not waste any of it! If you promise to do your very best to use this opportunity, I want all of us to say as loudly as possible: “I PLEDGE”.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to declare the 2014 Western Union I PLEDGE Programme and the Grace Kennedy Reading Week officially open!

I thank you; may God bless you and bless Jamaica land we love.