Education Minister Carl Bethel appealed to parents to turn off the televisions and make time each day to read to and with their child or children, as he officially launched “Read to Lead”, a national reading and mentoring programme Thursday at the Holy Trinity Activity Centre, Stapledon Gardens.

The “Read to Lead” initiative is a joint partnership between the Ministry of Education and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. It is modeled after a reading project at Woodcook Primary School that was started in 2005 by former US Ambassador John Rood and volunteers from the embassy.

The programme presently includes schools throughout New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Cat Island and Eleuthera and is expected to expand to the remaining Family Island districts in January of 2009.

Led by Education Deputy Director Patricia Collins, the organizing committee for “Read to Lead’’ has recruited over 600 volunteers to read to fourth, fifth and sixth grade public school students. Representing a wide cross section of the community, the volunteers include persons from churches, banks, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Scout Association, The Zonta Club as well as Governors General, Archbishops and retired persons.

Minister Bethel encouraged more Bahamians in service clubs and other business and professional organizations to adopt schools and become community readers. He said, “It is only through literacy and being able to read that you can put yourselves on the path for a successful, productive and meaningful life. By reading you will be on the road to empowerment and you will have a better chance of emerging as vibrant and productive citizens rather than to resort to crime or other negative activities.

“By reading you will get a solid education that will help you to know how to make the correct choices. We want to bring reading back in style. We want to make you excited about reading because there is so much you can learn by opening a book,” added Minister Bethel.

He thanked the volunteers, the US Embassy/Volunteer USA Organization and the organizers of “Read to Lead” for partnering with the Ministry of Education in this venture. He also extended appreciation to Graycliff president Paolo Garzaroli for his donation of over 1,000 copies of selected books.

In brief remarks Timothy Zuniga-Brown, Charge d’ Affaires; U. S. Embassy Nassau said, “When you are ready to read, you are ready to succeed and when you are ready to succeed, you are ready to lead. Get ready to read to lead! Get ready to make your parents and your teachers proud. Get ready to show what every child in the Bahamas is capable of doing and what they are able to accomplish through reading.”

Mr. Zuniga-Brown encouraged the students to get excited, get involved and get into reading. “Each of us has choices to make in life. The more good choices we make the more good opportunities are presented to us. One good choice we can always make each and every day, particularly at your age is to read a book because reading is the key to success and when you are ready to read you will all become leaders.”

An estimated 1,000 students representing New Providence public primary schools along with Ministry of Education teachers and officials, parents, volunteers and the Royal Bahamas Police Force Pop Band were present at the official launch of the reading project.