With limited public reading facilities and reading material often not present in the home, it is no surprise that literacy rates in Solomon Islands are thought to be under 20 per cent. Leaving the capital of Honiara, books and magazines become even more scarce, with newspapers being treasured items no matter how many weeks old they may be.
This is the situation that drives the passion of literacy advocate Joyce Boykin. Originally from the USA, Joyce has been living and working in Solomon Islands for the past 22 years, firstly as a teacher at King George VI High School, Woodford International School and at The University of the South Pacific, and then as a developer of education programs. In 2014 she coordinated many projects, such as distributing 36,000 school readers, sourcing 19,000 primary school books and creating the Literacy League to assist teachers use the new resources.
Joyce is a firm believer that people need to have good access to reading material, especially in the home, to increase their reading levels. It’s for this reason that she created the NGO Resources for Education to Advance Development in Solomon Islands (READ SI).
The READ SI team, a mix of Solomon Islanders and expats, is now taking on an ambitious project – to build and stock libraries right across Solomon Islands. Making literature available to all is no small task for a population geographically spread over more than 900 islands.
They will work with communities, responding to their reading needs, cultural preferences for material, and management. In some areas, community buildings may already exist and only the books are needed. In other areas where libraries are not already present, READ SI aims to construct small, purpose built buildings to house the new reading material. The libraries would be stocked with books suitable for all reading ages to encourage literacy across the different generations.
READ SI envisages that as well as enjoying reading in the libraries themselves, people will be able to check out the books and read them in their homes. Significantly widening people’s access to books, magazines, newspapers, and suchlike will give literacy levels a chance to rise and increase access to information. This will help people, particularly those in remote areas, to better meet challenges with ideas and problem solving skills.
READ SI aims to train people to manage the libraries and oversee the borrowing system to ensure that as many people as possible have access to the reading material. Prototypes of library buildings are currently being developed by the READ SI team, but they need more support to fund the library buildings, as well as donations from publishers of books to stock them with.
Is your business or organisation looking for a project to sponsor? Do you have contacts in the publishing industry? If you can help READ SI increase literacy in Solomon Islands, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org