By:Lorraine Ince-Carvalhal As education month comes to a close, I sincerely hope that the new initiatives proposed and focused on areas of improvement do not lose momentum and are not just lip service to the month. Despite the awareness of the need and identification of improvement areas, without continued motivation to application and implementation, we could be in danger of allowing the concerns to take a downward spiral as the next generation falls a little lower than the present one.The highlighting of literacy needs is one of the most important concerns, as without literacy, it is difficult for the country and its citizens to make further development. While it is clear that the emphasis on literacy needs to start at the beginning of a child’s life because research has shown that children who struggle with literacy will become youth and adults who struggle with literacy, the problem is that these same struggling adults are parents to those children in desperate need of literacy support. Surely the consideration here is that before we can hope to be successful in tackling the falling literacy rates in children, we need to intervene and develop the literacy rates of adults.During the recognition of International Literacy Day, Minister of Education, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine pointed out that the definition of literacy included the ability to identify, understand, interpret and create… using written materials. This goes far beyond the boundaries of learning how to read and write, and towards a person’s capacity to apply those skills to successfully connect, understand and identify the complexities of the world around them. Despite Guyana previously boasting high literacy rates, by this definition it is clear that those rates do not reflect the status of the many adults in this country. How can they hope to support and teach the next generation if they themselves are struggling with such skills?Study after study shows that families who read together can help children boost their vocabulary and school performance and to this end, parents are being encouraged to read with their children, discuss homework and encourage learning. Yet large numbers of parents are literally unable to do so. How sad it is that so many of our parents do not get to enjoy reading their child a bedtime story, such a rich pastime that many of us take for granted. How sad it is that by the age of four, a child of a low literate parent will have heard 32 million fewer words than a child of a literate parent.Schooling comes after the most influential part of a child’s development. A parent truly is the first teacher to a child and if they are unable to communicate the importance of literacy development and support that development, then a child is starting at a disadvantage when they enter the classroom. The challenge to build a strong education on an unstable foundation usually leads to that child attaining low educational standards and then we fall into a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself.The power of language and the ability to use it as an expression is an invaluable tool in every area of life, from school to work, in relationships and all other forma of communications. Learning to read is of course the basis of literacy, but it is also important that time is taken to build understanding and encourage critical thinking both in the home and in the classroom. Without these skills, being able to read and write still has limitations.There is an expectation that if we pour a certain amount of dollars into this generation’s education, we will get better results, but if we do nothing to address the households they are coming from, this expectation may not be realised. Should there not be more significant investment in this country to help improve adult literacy? Although the challenge is immense, the aim should be to make adult literacy classes easily accessible. Programmes need to be more effective and easy to implement with providers trained to deliver in a sensitive manner and participators need to be encouraged to complete courses with incentives, recognition and without stigma. In an effort to reach the standard of literacy that the Education Ministry is so appropriately aiming for, the input needs to span both generations and continue to do so until the cycle is broken.