Thursday, December 27, 2012

Poetry, Pudding and Punch 2012

Renaee Perrier Smith

Congratulations to Ms. Natalie Morris, of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, St. James on the second staging of Poetry, Pudding and Punch, which took place on Sunday, December 16, 2012 at Robin’s Steakhouse Restaurant, Altamont West Hotel on Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay. As MC for the evening, Natalie made sure that the programme flowed smoothly.     
    This year, in addition to pudding, other Jamaican baked Christmas Treats, including carrot cake, sweet potato pudding and rock cakes were temptingly set out for visitors to sample. These had been prepared by Renaee Perrier Smith, culinary artist and author of two Jamaican Cookbooks. Renaee, who currently resides in New Jersey, took us on a trip down memory lane with anecdotes from her school days. I was most interested to hear her story, having taught her biology at Montego Bay Community College, many years ago. I knew her as a math whiz, so was not surprised to learn that she had followed her studies in the USA with a 15-year career in finance. Indulging in her hobby of baking, she took pleasure in treating her co-workers to her cakes. So delighted were they, that they encouraged her to make baking her career. An outcome of this venture was her first cookbook, “Jamaica’s Forgotten Treats” containing recipes passed down by her mother and grandmother. For her second, “Memba When”, she drew on memories of staples such as cocobread and cheese, water crackers (with everything!) and bagjuice, from her school days. To read more about Renaee, see her website . Thank you, Renaee, for sending your photographs to use for this post.
Mervin Spence
    The guest poet was Mervin Spence, who won a gold medal in this year’s Creative Writing Contest. He has performed in Movies, Commercials T.V., Radio, Music Videos. He’s probably best known at the present time for “Pay your taxes,” the T.V. commercial in which he is sitting in the chair at the barber’s shop. In addition to being a poet and an actor, he is also a Fine Art Painter, an Artistic Director of Movies and Plays, a Cosmetologist, a Lighting & Set Designer, a Drafting and Building Technologist, and a Real Estate Salesman. Mervin explained to us how he came to be wearing so many hats, and entertained us with dub-poetry and other poetry. He has a poetry book and CD “From the Streets to the World”.
Trecia Williams

Among other presenters of the evening was gold-medal winning poet, Mrs. Trecia Williams, who delighted us with a variety of poems. She also included dub-poetry in her repertoire and was accompanied by Ms. Ileen Leslie, of Montego Bay Infant School, on drums. The photograph shows her with her ode to a tangerine.

Annastacia Irving
An up-and-coming poet, a student from Herbert Morrison High School, Annastacia Irving impressed us with her talent, range of styles, confidence and poise. Although I hadn’t entered the JCDC Creative Writing Contest this year, I was invited to make a presentation. I read excerpts from “Delroy in the Marog Kingdom”. A few brave souls then accepted the invitation to the “open mic”.

Organizer and MC Natalie Morris
Miss Astarte Daley of JCDC surprised Natalie Morris and a few members of the audience by inviting them to join her on stage in celebration of Herbert Morrison Technical High School. Some of them were members of the first graduating class (who would prefer us not to know how long ago that was!). Reunions for alumni of that class living abroad have taken place recently.

Although Poetry, Pudding and Punch is delightful entertainment for the Christmas Season, the absence of so many of JCDC’Ss poetry loving friends may be attributed to the large number of events taking place at this time of year. Writers all, I hope you are busy preparing your submissions for entry in the 2013 Creative Writing Contest, due at the end of June, and that medal-winning or not, we will hear you reading them at the next staging of Poetry, Pudding and Punch.

Me reading from Delroy in the Marog Kingdom


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Chetwood Memorial Primary Parenting Workshop 2012

Library at Chetwood Memorial where workshop was held
I applaud Chetwood Memorial Primary School for using an innovative way of explaining to parents how they can work along with the school in helping children to learn to read.

   On Wednesday, November 14, 2012, they invited selected parents to a workshop on "Creating and Maintaining a Literate Home Environment". Ms. Donna Clarke and her team of teachers gave a power-point presentation, starting with a case study. "A boy who spends most of his time watching TV, fails his Grade 4 Literacy Test, so his mother keeps him from school as a punishment." The parents’ responses were as follows:
• The mother should have had a discussion with the boy’s teacher.
Children like to read comics. If they don’t want to read books, allow them to read comics until their reading is good enough for them to read books.
• One father said that he likes to play football with his son. He also likes to read, so they read before playing football.

After these responses, the presentation moved on to suggestions for helping children with reading.
The notes below are taken from the brochures handed out at the meeting. The comments in blue italics are mine.
Facilitating Reading at Home.
• Be a model. Don’t expect reading to be important to your children if they don’t see you reading. Parents who can't read or have difficulty reading, could find a relative or friend to be a model.
• Start as early as possible. One year old is not too early. There are books written for that age group.
• Set aside a time for reading. Excellent suggestion.
• Surround them with reading materials.
• Give a book for a gift. I endorse this heartily.
• Encourage your child to swap books with friends. They can start a book club, with each child buying a different book or getting a book as a gift.
• Allow your children to select materials for reading. They probably won't like what you choose for them.
  • Put specific times on your calendar each week when you will spend time with your children. During that time focus your love and attention on your child:
1. Read a book – talk about the characters, who are the main characters, what you like and dislike about the characters, what are their personalities? Which character do you think is most like you? If this seems too much like school to your child, just let them enjoy the story.
2. Watch a movie and ask the child to retell the story in his or her words. Be prepared to listen for a long time!
3. Play puzzles, crosswords, word games such as word Bingo and boards games – these will help develop children’s thinking skills. These should be fun. If they seem like a chore to your child, that defeats their purpose.
• Extend your child’s general knowledge by looking up a ‘fact of the week’ together. Good idea.
• Word of the week: find the meaning, make sentences, find synonyms and autonyms for the word (for older children) and cut the word out in its shape.(For children not yet reading. The shape of words is how children recognize them by 'look and say')
• Limit TV viewing on school nights – use it as an incentive for reading.
• DEAR stands for Drop Everything and Read. During DEAR time, everyone in the family sits down for some uninterrupted reading time. (Chetwood Memorial does this every day.)
• Check homework every night. Most important. Even if the parent can't read, it shows they are taking an interest.

Selecting Reading Materials
This is one of the most difficult things for parents to do. Taking the child to the library is a good way of finding out what they like. Don't worry if they choose something you think is too easy for them. It is all reading practice. If they choose something they later find is too hard, read it to them and let it guide their choice the next time.
When selecting books consider the following:
• Age
• Interest
• Reading level
• Purpose
• Length of text
• Size of print

Developing Reading and Comprehension Skills
  • Read, read, read.
  • Set a good example by letting your children see you read.
  • Before reading a book have your child look at the cover and the inside pictures and predict what the story is about.
 Comprehension materials in the home.
  • calendar
  • food labels
  • newspaper
  • posters
  • recipe books
  • prescriptions
  • road signs
Benefits of Reading to/with your children. Yes, Yes to all of these.
  • They will develop a love for reading.
  • It will help in building the parent-child relationship.
  • Help to build confidence.
  • It will enable you to recognize strengths and weaknesses in your child's reading.
  • You will be a model for your child.
Other Home Activites
Children can
  • Write a letter of request if they need to go somewhere.
  • Write an apology when they have done something wrong.
  • Write a report of incidents involving other siblings.
  • Make lists; grocery shopping, books to buy or things to take on trips.
Always remember to celebrate your child's effort and achievements in reading. I would add, "Never say anything negative about a child's reading."

If all parents followed half of these suggestions, it could make a tremendous difference. Unfortunately, many of the parents who were invited didn't attend. This year I'm helping eight children in grade 2 who aren't up to standard in reading. All of their parents were invited to the workshop, but only one came. We need to change the mindset that it's solely the school's responsibility to teach children to read. Parents, please step up to the plate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

To Beat or not to Beat - Part 3: In Schools

   The question of whether or not children should be subjected to corporal punishment in schools was brought to the fore this week by the report of level of slapping that takes place in Kensington Primary School. The principal holds that the use of this punishment is responsible for the good results achieved by the school in Grade 4 Literacy and Mathematics tests. However, a parent complained that this type of punishment made her daughter so nervous that she was unable to perform academically. Because complaints to the school only made matters worse, she removed her to another school.
   Corporal punishment in schools has a long history. Roald Dahl in his story “Lucky Break” describes the brutal caning he was subjected to both at boarding school at the age of eight (1924), and worse canings at a Public School (as private schools in England are called). There, the Headmaster, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted in canings which even drew blood. Dahl’s end of year report, 1932, read “this boy is an indolent and illiterate member of the class” – a strange observation on one who was to become a world-famous children’s writer. Had the repressive atmosphere of his school stifled his creativity?
   The discipline enforced by principals in Jamaican schools is legendary. One is known for having walked the school with his cane up the sleeve of his jacket. Another caned a child for carelessness when he reported losing money; and caned all the children who’d been in a bus when one of them had thrown a bottle out of the window. When principals are less ferocious with the use of the cane, misbehaving children have begged to be beaten at school, to avoid a worse beating at home.
   It is only in the last 30 years that the tide has turned against corporal punishment. There is some confusion over the legality of it in schools in Jamaica. Justice Henderson Downer, deputy director of the Office of the Children’s Advocate, interprets Section 1b of the Child Care and Protection Act to mean that corporal punishment is illegal, and should not be administered to any child anywhere in Jamaica. The policy of the Ministry of Education is that classroom teachers should not administer corporal punishment, but in exceptional circumstances it can be used by the principal or somebody appointed by him.
   What happens in practice is a different matter. There are several reasons for this. One of the problems is that many of the children in school have not internalized a moral code, for a variety of reasons. (See my previous post). These children, accustomed to authoritarian discipline, take a lack of it as a license to do as they please. Imagine being faced with a class of forty or fifty six-year-olds, half of whom have the concentration span of a butterfly, who won’t do as they are told, who get up and run around, who are constantly chattering and are themselves responding to other children with physical blows. Added to that, many of the children have undiagnosed specific learning disabilities, such as ADHD. Classrooms are cramped and lacking in educational materials.
   The other question to be answered at is what to put in place of corporal punishment. Tongue-lashing of children also produces undesirable results. Humiliation, ridicule and sarcasm are not acceptable alternatives to corporal punishment. When a child is repeatedly told he is dunce, or he is no good, or he will come to nothing, he will begin to believe it and use it as an excuse for not trying.
   Ideally, children should be motivated by positive reinforcement when they exhibit desirable behaviors, and performance. Children given tasks which they are capable of performing will be motivated by a sense of mastery. They can then be confronted with harder tasks, which in turn they will be able to master. The challenge is to raise the bar sufficiently to keep them interested, but not too high that they will be discouraged. It is difficult to do this in a class of children with different starting levels and rates of progress.
   The prohibition of corporal punishment in schools cannot take place suddenly, by issuing a decree. It will be necessary to continue to raise public awareness of its harmful effects and involve parents, communities, teachers and school boards in an ongoing debate, until alternative strategies have been worked out, and there is a consensus against corporal punishment. UNICEF has spearheaded a number of awareness campaigns against corporal punishment, for example “Educate, Don’t Punish”.
   The ongoing debate in the press and on radio, as in Steven Golding’s Mike 1-2-3, on Hot 102 FM today, is welcome.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

To Beat or not? Part 2: In the Home cont.

Some of the instances of child abuse in Jamaica take place because the parents believe that they are doing the right thing when they give a child a good beating. In contrast, the law requires that anyone knowing of such abuse should report it to the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR). I’m writing these posts to explain why beating is harmful and to suggest some alternatives.
   In my first post on this topic, (Nov 6,2012) I outlined some of the theories of psychosocial development in relation to children in their first 4 years of life. I now turn to children 4 years old and up.
   In an ideal situation, a child enters his fifth year of life with the strength of mind to be able to set goals and work towards them; and to be able to control impulses to do things which he knows are unacceptable. However, situations are rarely ideal. We as adults do and say things, intentionally and unintentionally, which we know violate our own moral codes. We give in to temptation. We make excuses for ourselves and justify our behavior, or we suffer from feelings of guilt and we ask forgiveness of ourselves or of others. We resolve to learn from our mistakes not to repeat the same behavior. Then we move on.
   Aware of our own weaknesses, we strive to ‘train up a child in the way he should go’ (Proverbs 22 v 6). Many people in Jamaica believe that this should involve corporal punishment. However, research has shown that harsh and excessive corporal punishment has the opposite effect to that which is intended. The child may avoid behaviors which result in such punishments, but does not internalize a moral code. It is this internalization which children need to achieve, so that they will be able to direct their own behavior, independently of their parents. Psychosocial theories help to explain how this takes place, and thus how parents can best assist.
   In the early school years (ages 4-6) a child develops a self-concept of himself as an individual. The developmental tasks include early moral development – “understanding that lying, cheating, stealing, hurting others, or making fun of other children’s differences are morally wrong and that telling the truth, playing fairly, sharing, being helpful and respecting people’s differences are morally right.” (Newman). It has three aspects to it: knowledge, emotions, and action. Children learn the moral code of their community and to make judgments about actions. They experience feelings of anxiety and guilt when they know they have done something wrong, and pleasant emotions when their actions involve caring for others. They act to reduce the unpleasant emotions and increase pleasant ones, so inhibit harmful impulses, and make an effort to do the right thing.
   The purpose of disciplinary methods taken by parents is to assist children internalize the moral code. They should help the child interrupt forbidden actions; suggest more acceptable forms of behavior for the future; and provide reasons, which the child can understand, why one behavior is preferable to another. They should help children to empathize with others, by asking children to put themselves in the victim’s place, to see how they would like being the victim. None of these can be achieved by corporal punishment, but by continuing dialogue.
   Parents also need to set examples in their own behavior. It shouldn’t be a case of “do as I say and not as I do”. The importance of rewarding good behavior cannot be overemphasized; and the importance of reading to children should not be overlooked.
   Reading a story presents an opportunity to discuss with a child what the characters have done, and what happens to them. Until about sixty years ago, books written for children usually had an overt message, the purpose being moral education. Many of these books are still read to children, but in more recent years, publishers and children have rejected these types of books. More modern books are less preachy, but they still have messages embedded in them. Reading to children also means spending quality time with them.
   Children, by the time they are six years old, will have internalized a moral code. However, they still misbehave at times. From 6-12 years old, they still need parental discipline to reinforce that moral code. They need lots of affirmation for good behavior, for example stars can be put on a chart. A certain number of stars could be required for purchasing a toy or something else the child wants. Stars could be removed for bad behavior. Watching TV can also be used as a reward for good behavior, and no TV for bad behavior. Corporal punishment should be the last resort, although I've heard adults say that, as children, they preferred a quick slap, administered immediately after they had done something wrong, to other kinds of punishment. If love withdrawal should is used as a punishment, it will most likely result in the child suffering from overwhelming feelings of guilt. Whatever discipline technique is used, it’s important to keep channels of communication open – to talk with (not to) children at every opportunity.
   During the 6 - 12 years, children should begin to read on their own and choose what they would like to read. Reading shouldn't be used as a punishment – it’s supposed to be a pleasure!
   The teenage years are characterized by turmoil, resulting from physical and psychological changes which teenagers undergo, coupled with social and educational expectations, and peer pressure. It’s a time when they need support and encouragement from their parents. They appreciate restrictions put on them by parents, as an ‘excuse’ for not indulging in risky behavior. They are still dependent on parents, so, if punishment is necessary, it can include cutting allowances and gating. Corporal punishment should not be inflicted on them. However, if parents continue to discipline by power assertion, as they did in the earlier years, teenagers are liable to rebel. When I was teaching, a mother phoned me to ask,
   “Is my daughter was attending class? If she is, please tell her she must come home. I won’t beat her.” The girl in question was seventeen years old. I suspect that many of the girls reported missing have in fact run away from home because their parents beat them. It is highly likely that they in turn will become mothers who beat their own children. One of the ways to break this vicious cycle is to have parenting workshops where information can be spread about alternate methods of disciplining children.

Reference: Development Through Life - A Psychosocial Approach by Newman and Newman

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

To Beat or not to Beat? - Part 1 - in the Home.

I remember the feeling of terror I had when our first grade teacher showed us the strap. A boy in the class had challenged her pronunciation of the word ‘Gaelic’. Her response was to let us know what would happen to us if we stepped out of line. This was in Scotland in the late 1940’s. I was brought in up a loving family, without corporal punishment, so by the time I was five, I had a strong sense of right and wrong. I was not a child who needed the threat of the strap to make me behave.
     There are now 117 countries in the world where corporal punishment in schools is against the law, and 32 countries where it is prohibited in the home. In Jamaica, however, up to January 2011 it was still legal (except in Basic Schools). In a Green Paper on Safe School Policy, there are plans to abolish it. There is strong support for it in the home. People say that badly behaved children should get ‘a good lick’ and ‘if they can’t hear they will feel’. They quote what they claim to be a Biblical injunction ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ which in fact does not appear in the Bible. Parental discipline is often harsh to the point of being abusive. Many parents give accounts of the beatings they received as children and how it ‘didn’t do them any harm’.
     Why is it that countries around the world are making corporal punishment illegal? The main reason is the research that has been done into the psychology of development.
     One of the most widely accepted theories in psychology is Erik Erikson’s eight-stage theory of human development. In each stage, Erikson identified a psychosocial crisis or conflict. Successful resolution of these conflicts at each stage of development results in the acquisition of an ego quality. In other words, the individual is well-adapted and ready to move on to the next stage. Failure to resolve these conflicts results in a pathology which hinders future development.
     In the first life stage, infancy, the first 2 years of life, miraculous development of the brain takes place. The baby gradually gains control over his muscular movements and he begins to make sense of his world. He discovers that he be the cause of things happening and knows what to expect, an ability that continues to develop through life. One’s ability to plan, carry out and evaluate the plan, depend on this skill. He experiences new emotions ranging from pleasure to fear and anger. Babies cry because they are hungry or uncomfortable and are entirely dependent on the caregiver (mother or whoever is acting in her place). It has been found that babies, whose mothers responded quickly to their cries in the first 6 months of life, cried less often in the second 6 months. There are people who recommend that the baby be left to cry, implying that the baby is bad or simply a nuisance. In Jamaica, uncaring caregivers say the child will have a good singing voice when left to cry.
     Erikson identified the conflict at this early stage as trust versus mistrust. If children successfully develop trust, they feel safe and secure in the world, and the ego quality which they acquire is hope. If they fail to develop trust, they become withdrawn. They lack confidence that their needs will be met by the caregiver and doubt their own lovableness.
     A caregiver might be tempted to spank an infant who is exploring his world, touching things he shouldn’t touch and putting things in his mouth. However, spanking will only make the infant lose trust in the caregiver. A better strategy is make the environment suitable for the baby by putting things he shouldn’t touch out of his reach and providing alternatives. These don’t have to be expensive toys. They can be simple things like boxes and plastic containers into which the infant can put objects, which shouldn’t have any sharp edges, and should be too big for him to put in his mouth.
     In the second life stage, toddlerhood, encompassing years 2 and 3, children become more physically active and language develops. They also engage in fantasy play, a normal and necessary activity, in which they act out situations they wouldn’t be ready to deal with in the real world. During these years also toddlers learn self-control. They learn to behave in a socially acceptable way without external direction. Training at this stage includes toileting. If an accident happens, it must be dealt with in a good tempered manner, without a fuss. If the child is criticized, shame and doubt occur.
     At this stage the discipline strategies caregivers use fall into three categories: power assertion – shouting and physical punishment; love-withdrawal – expressing anger or disappointment or walking out; and induction – explaining why the behavior is wrong. The first two should be used sparingly.
     The manner of discipline is of great importance. It should be immediate or as close to the situation as possible, brief and appropriate. An alternative to corporal punishment is ‘time out’. Praise for good behavior when they are behaving well, and distracting them from undesirable behavior are also important. Toddlers learn by imitation, so parents also need to model desirable behavior.
     Frequent harsh punishment, such as beating, doesn’t achieve its intended goals. Instead, it gives rise to emotional distress which in turn generates externally directed behaviors including arguing, disobedience, destructiveness, and intentional hurting. Many of the behavioral problems encountered by teachers stem from the system of punishment inflicted by primary caregivers. The high incidence of violent crime in Jamaica is thought to be a result of frequent physical abuse and neglect by caregivers of these criminals when they were children.
     In contrast, reading to children has many benefits. Reading to a child sitting on your knee, or when he is tucked up in bed at night, comforts him. Stories illustrate the kinds of moral choices children are faced with, and help them to empathize with the characters.

Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach by Newman and Newman

Gleaner article: Creating Children who are Winners by Eulalee Thompson

Friday, October 26, 2012

Two Weeks in Jamaica 2008 - Reflections on Hurricanes

Man running from storm surge (Front of Gleaner 25/10/12)

In this season of hurricanes, when Montego Bay has once again been spared the worst, so nothing of note to recount, I am instead posting a piece I wrote in 2008, called Two Weeks in Jamaica. We have relived these two weeks this year, (not consecutively). I cannot say how much the lessons learned from the two weeks in 2008 resulted in nation building, but what has been shown strongly during the passage of Hurricane Sandy is the care people have shown to their neighbours, especially by young people towards the elderly. I salute them and hope their kind acts are recognized. Isn’t this the Jamaica we want?


Usain Bolt
     In the third week of August, Jamaica stunned the world by winning 11 medals, 6 of them gold, in track events in the Beijing Olympic Games. Jamaicans worldwide, glued to their TV sets, watched as our athletes won heat after heat. On days of finals, tension stretched to breaking point. All of us in Jamaica held our breath until the winning moment when we burst into a frenzy of celebration. In Kingston, the capital, at a busy intersection where a large TV screen was mounted, a huge crowd stopped traffic, as people waved flags, banged pot covers, laughed and cheered.
     The first of these celebrations took place when Usain Bolt won the men’s 100m in record time. He also won the hearts of spectators as he celebrated in his own way, with his trademark salute, and performed his favourite dancehall moves—“gully creeper” and “nuh linger”.
     Then Shelly-Ann Fraser, Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson won gold and two silver in the women’s 100m. People in the poor inner-city district, where Shelly-Ann comes from, were over the moon. The stigma—nothing good comes out of the ghetto—was blown away in 10.78 seconds.
     When Usain Bolt won the men’s 200m in record time, followed by Melaine Walker’s gold in the women’s 400m hurdles and Veronica Campbell Brown’s gold in the women’s 200m, we were ecstatic. The gloom that descended when the women failed to medal in the 100m relay, soon evaporated when the men’s 100m relay team won gold.

To share the euphoria, the optimism and the unifying force, as it swept through this island, was an incredible experience.
In Kingston after Hurricane Sandy (Collin Reid photo)

The following week, TV images brought us news we did not want to hear—Tropical Storm Gustav was heading towards Jamaica. I had lived here for twenty years before my first experience of a hurricane—Gilbert—in 1988. Jamaica had not been hit by a hurricane since 1951, and was not prepared. As a consequence, at our house, we were without piped water for 4 days, electricity for 3 weeks and telephone for 7 weeks. Others fared far worse.
     By the time Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004, the utility companies had learnt their lesson—telephone service did not fail; and water and electricity were restored within a week. We had learnt the wisdom of putting up hurricane shutters at the windows to prevent rain blowing in, between the glass louvre blades, but the downside was an incessant clanging and rattling which, together with a howling wind, went on all night.
     In 2007, we prepared for Hurricane Dean, but Montego Bay was spared the worst. Come 2008, here we were again, making preparations for Gustav, forecast to pass between Jamaica and Cuba. Instead, it made an unexpected turn to the south and slammed straight into the east coast of Jamaica. Floods washed away houses and bridges; landslides blocked roads and great chunks of road slid down mountainsides. Banana fields, in their final recovery from Hurricane Dean, were once again flattened. We in the west give thanks that we were only inconvenienced. As for those who were battered by the storm, with characteristic Jamaican resilience, they pick up the pieces and move on.

In the months to come, as we recall, talk and joke about these two weeks, the sincere wish of most Jamaicans is that the positives which flowed from the achievements of our hard-working athletes, and the lessons learned from the storm, be converted into decisive steps of nation building.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Books by Jamaican Authors for Children ages 8 -14

Please see the updated version of this post, August 2014

Children who read for pleasure improve their word knowledge, grammar and reading comprehension far beyond what is taught in formal classes. This holds true whether they are reading stories about children like themselves or different from themselves. Why then should we be concerned that books about children like themselves are available for their reading pleasure?

In her blog of October 16, 2012, Diane Browne wrote
“But where is the embracing of the Caribbean literature by the education system so that we may read about ourselves more often than we do, not only in set books, but just in the library at school? Do we think that our children can learn anything from the books being written now? Have our adult gatekeepers read the books and recognized their worth, not only as entertaining stories, but also as self validation, points from which discussion may arise in a young people valiantly searching for themselves , as all young people do? Books allow them to work through their fears, their sources of joy, their experiences, to try on various selves. It would seem a good thing if these selves could be related to their own lives.”

In relation to Diane’s observations, I will comment on a few school libraries I’ve seen. The best prep school library was spacious, full of books and had lending facilities, but the only Jamaican novel was ‘White Witch of Rosehall’. Most of the books in the library had been donated, so the school didn’t actually choose the books. Another prep school had no library. One primary school has a new purpose built library. They are gradually putting up shelves and unpacking boxes of N. American books which will fill the shelves. The school itself has neither a budget for library books nor for a full-time librarian.

I have therefore prepared a list of books by Jamaican authors for Children ages 8 -14. In addition to posting it on my blog, I will make the list available to any teacher librarian who is not aware of these books, especially the more recent titles. The prices of these books range from about $700 to $1,000. Supposing the price is $1,000, the cost for 1 copy of each of the first 25 books listed would be $25,000. For a school with 500 students, a donation of $50 from each child would cover the cost. The age range given for the readership is an average and there will be children above and below those ages who can read and enjoy the books.

Here’s the list:

1. Flying with Icarus by Curdella Forbes 2003 (Walker Books)

Carlong Sand Pebble Series available in Sangsters Book Stores
2. Jojo’s Treasure Hunt by Cherrell Shelley-Robinson 2003 (10-12)
3. Freedom Come by Jean Goulbourne 2002 (10 -12)
4. Island Princess in Brooklyn by Diane Browne 2011 (10-14)
5. Bernie and the Captain’s Ghost by Hazel Campbell 2010 (10-12)
6. Tek Mi! Noh Tek Mi by C. Shelley-Robinson et al 2008 (10-14)
7. Every Little Thing will be All Right by Diane Browne 2003 (8-10)
8. Little Island - Big Adventures by Maria Roberts-Squires 2007 (12-14)
9. Jenny and the General by Jean D’Costa 2006 (8-10)
10. Miss Bettina’s House by Hazel Campbell 2004 (8-10)

By Hazel Campbell, published by LMH,
available at outlets supplied by Novelty Trading.
11. Juice Box and Scandal                                                                                                                               
12. Tilly Bummie
13. Ramgoat Dashalong
14. Goat Boy Never Cries

By Diane Browne
15. A Tumbling World - A Time of Fire                                       
16. Cordelia Finds Fame and Fortune
17. The Ring and the Roaring Water (Available at Bookland)          

By Linda Gambrill (Beenybud Stories)
18. Miss Tiny (7- 9)
19. A Boy Named Neville (7 - 9)
20. Croaking Johnny and Dizzy Lizzie (7 - 9)

Island Fiction Series (Macmillan Caribbean 2009) available at outlets supplied by Novelty Trading

21. Delroy in the Marog Kingdom by Billy Elm 2009 (9-14)         

22. Night of the Indigo by Michael Holgate 2009 (12-15)

23. Blue Mountain Trouble by Martin Mordecai 2009 (8-12)

By Cedella Marley
24. The Boy from Nine Miles
25. One Love

26. A Jamaican Storyteller’s Tale by Lorrimer A. Burford ( 2005)

The following stories were written longer ago (‘70’s,’80’s; and ‘90’s) and are probably better known than more recent publications.

By James Berry
27. A Thief in the Village and Other Stories 1987 (12-up)
28. Ajeemah and His Son – Harper Collins1993 (8-up)

By Everard Palmer
29. A Cow Called Boy 1972 (6-10)
30. The Sun Salutes You (Republished by Macmillan Caribbean 2007) (8-12)
31. My Father Sun-Sun Johnson 1974 (8-12)
32. Cloud with the Silver Lining 1987 (8-12)

By Jean D’Costa
33. Sprat Morrison
34. Escape to Last Man Peak

By Andrew Salkey
35. Drought
36. Earthquake
37. Riot

By Vic Reid
38. Sixty-Five (1960), London: Longman.
39. The Young Warriors (1967), London: Longman.
40. Peter of Mount Ephraim (1971), Kingston: Jamaica Publishing House.
41. The Jamaicans (revised edition 1978), Kingston: Institute of Jamaica.
42. Nanny Town (1983)
43. The Horses of the Morning (1985)
For a comprehensive list of Jamaican and Caribbean books for children see

If anyone reading this post knows of, or has written other stories for 8 -14 year-olds, I would be most grateful if you would let me know.

Added in March, 2014, four books by Suzanne Francis Brown
The Mystery of the Golden Table (Arawak Publishing)
Searching for Pirates. A Port Royal Adventure (Arawak)
Marcus Garvey. (Suzanne Francis-Brown/Jean-Jacques Vayssieres)(Ian Randle Publ)
The Mermaid Escapade (E-Published, Kindle, 2013) 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

German Day Celebrations and Concert at Seaford Town

In this post, I depart from my usual topics on literacy to highlight an all-too-infrequent event in Western Jamaica - a classical music concert, this one in Seaford Town.
Seaford Town, also known as “German Town” was founded in 1835 by settlers from Westphalia in Germany. It is widely regarded as having the strongest German cultural retentions of all the places where Germans settled in Jamaica. It is a Jamaican national heritage site, in the hills of Westmoreland, about an hour’s drive south of Montego Bay.

On Sunday, September 30, 2012 two events took place in Seaford Town, courtesy of the German Embassy. One was the handing over of the sanitary facilities which were built to be made available to visitors to the Seaford Town Museum on German immigration.

Ambassador Josef Beck
The second was a special outreach concert, at Seaford Town Primary School, to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Jamaica. Ambassador Josef Beck opened the proceedings. He invited the Hon. Luther Buchanan, MP for Eastern Westmoreland and Minister of State in the Office of the PM; the Hon. Damion Crawford, Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism, and Councillor Paul Wilson, Deputy Mayor of Sav-la-Mar to bring greetings.

The appreciative audience was then treated to a classical concert which included the following items:

Nastassja Nass, soprano, singing ‘Lord I Obey”, the 1st Aria from ‘Jonah’ written by Samuel Felsted (1743-1802) organist at Kingson Parish Church in the 18th century. Natassja is a professional opera singer.

Instrumental pieces, by a number of composers, including Mozart and Saint Saens, for the following instruments: recorder, played by Rosina Moder of Music Unites; violin; viola, played by Kwame Kohl, a Jamaican who lives in Berlin. (His mother was one of the first members of Black Uhuru.); cello; French Horn; and trumpet.
Violinist, Cellist and Violist (Kwame Kohl)

Piece  for French Horn and Trumpet

Nastassja Nass
The final item, sung by Nastassja, was taken from the Reggae Opera, music by Peter Ashbourne, lyrics by Mervin Morris. The opera is 'Mikey'. Of it, Rosina Moder said, "It is a Jamaican story, loosely based - it takes poetic licence - on Mikey Smith." Smith, a poet, was murdered on August 17, 1983, in Stony Hill, St Andrew. One of his more popular poems and recordings is Mi Cyaan Believe It. There were excerpts from the opera in Kingston last week.

Larkland Williams assisted by Dr. Althea Neblett

After the musicians had taken their final bow, there was an impromptu item by Larkland Williams, a JUTA Tours operator, who performed the country and western ‘You picked a fine tome to leave me Lucille’ in German, much to the delight of Ambassador Beck and other German nationals.

As a token of appreciation, Jeremy Ashbourne, son of Peter Ashbourne, presented Ambassador Beck with a gift basket filled with local produce. Rita Hilton, Treasurer of the Seaford Town NGO, explained to the Ambassador what everything was.

After the classical concert, the Seaford Town marching band performed. The young people were well coordinated and entertaining, but unfortunately, because of the rain, they had to play inside the school instead of marching outside. The resulting volume was too loud for some of us, so we slipped out before they had finished.

I apologise for any errors and omissions in this post, which, as there were no programmes, I wrote from my own incomplete notes and internet searches. I had expected to see a report in one of the newspapers, but there were only photographs in the Gleaner’s Western Focus on Saturday, October 6. I would appreciate further input on this cultural event from my readers.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Raising Children to be Readers

Many parents believe that the best way to help their children to learn to read is to teach them the alphabet. However, studies have shown that the best things they can do begin when the child is born. Raising children in an environment of love allows for their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional developmental goals to be met. A 4-year-old who is socially well-adjusted, has self-control, is well-behaved, who knows what he wants to do, has enough self-confidence to do it, persisting until he has completed the task; and is able to carry on a conversation, is ready for school and will not find learning difficult.

The first requirement for these goals to be met is proper nutrition—preferably breast-milk for the first 6 months of life, followed by weaning onto a balanced diet. The second is for his mother to respond to his needs, so that he learns to trust, and to show affection. A neglected baby feels emotions of disappointment and anger, which later lead to defiance, intentional hurting and feelings of guilt.

The third is for adequate stimulation, so that the baby learns the properties of objects. He learns that objects and people are still there when he cannot see them, and develops the ability to hold an image of objects in his mind. This is the beginning of memory. He learns that he can be a causal agent and can predict the outcome of his actions. This is the foundation of an adult’s ability to make a plan, carry it out and judge its success. When a baby can creep he should be allowed to explore a safe environment. Parents could baby-proof part of the house instead of restraining the baby.

In the toddler years (ages 2 and 3), a great deal of development takes place. I’m choosing four things to emphasize. Firstly, the importance of fantasy play, which children use to come to terms with their physical and social environment. Many children talk to imaginary friends. (They are not talking to duppies, as some people think!). When they make imaginary friends scapegoats, they show that they are learning the difference between right and wrong.

Secondly, the purpose of punishment should be to develop self control. When a child has misbehaved, parents need to explain why the action was wrong. Discipline should be administered as close to the action as possible, should be appropriate but firm, and brief. A toddler can be given ‘time-out’. Where the child is in a loving home, the occasional slap can be effective, but intense, frequent, harsh punishment leads to emotional distress (including depression) which later leads to arguing, disobedience and destructiveness. Toddlers learn by imitation, so will copy caregivers who behave in a violent manner.

Many children all over the world, including Jamaica, suffer from undiagnosed, untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting from abuse, loss of loved ones, fires and other disasters. In these children, the ‘wiring’ of the brain develops in such a way that they are on constant alert, and are unable to concentrate on school work. They need professional help.

Lastly, and of paramount importance for a child to be able to learn to read, is the development of language. Parents need to communicate with their children as much as possible, beginning at birth with non-verbal communication. By the time a child is 4 years old, he has learnt the grammatical structure and a sufficient number of words to be able to converse in his mother-tongue. While there are children who are bilingual in Creole and Standard English, the many who speak only Creole face the difficulty of acquiring literacy in Standard English. Much research has been done on this by Dr. Meta Bogle and Dr. Beverley Bryan (UWI).

A bedtime story

 I agree that one of the best ways for children to learn Standard English is to hear written stories read to them out loud, preferably every day. However, I doubt whether the parents of our at-risk students are able or willing to do this. Many of them are completely overwhelmed by day-to-day problems, and see nothing wrong with raising their children in the same way that they were raised. Studies have shown that mothers like these can be helped by social support, such as was given by the Rural Caregivers Programme and the Rural Family Support Organization operating in Clarendon.

Illiteracy in Jamaica is a national problem—it impacts all of us. Whole communities need to be involved, not just parents and teachers. For example, in addition to providing books, volunteer ‘reading aunts, uncles, big sisters and brothers’ could be on hand to read to at-risk children. Service Clubs, Churches and NGO’s need to mobilize to give social, emotional and economic support to the neediest families. Drama groups could present role-play, showing preferred methods of parenting.

The parameters of the solution to the literacy problem are much wider than simply teaching children to read.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Volunteering at Chetwood Memorial Primary School

Chetwood Memorial Primary School
Since September 2011, I’ve been helping some grade 2 children with reading at Chetwood Memorial Primary School. This school was started by Fransiscan Sisters in what is now the church hall. The current school is also built on land belonging to the Catholic Church. It is a government primary school with 4 streams in each of grades 1-6 with about 45 children in each class. The school is located near the centre of Montego Bay and accommodates children from various social backgrounds. Although it is now one of the more sought after schools, there are 150 children who qualify for free lunches.
   I offered to help Grade 2, because those children who enter grade 2 below the reading level for their grade, are unable to follow the text-books on which Grade 2 work is based. The Principal, Mrs. Campbell was most appreciative of my offer, saying, “We need all the help we can get.” Seven children were referred to me and I met them in three groups for half an hour each, one day a week. I wanted to recruit other volunteers to come on other days, but as it turned out, there was only one, a young man from Montego Bay Community College, who chose this avenue for his voluntary service. He had a positive influence on the children and I noticed a real improvement after a week when he came every day.

New block housing the library and computer room
    My philosophy when teaching reading is to teach with kindness – to respect, pay attention to and show affection to my pupils – and to praise frequently. I’m not a reading specialist, but have devised my method of teaching reading from research and experience. Children should hear, say, look at, and write—these 4 activities for every letter, word and sentence, using a mix of phonics, and word and sentence recognition. I also try to emphasize meaning and that the purpose of reading and writing is to communicate.

In teaching phonics, I find out what letter sounds they know and start where they are. Most of them know the consonant sounds, but need revision. The vowels are more challenging, as they have so many variants. I start with the short vowel sounds using flash cards, rhyming words and words starting with the same consonant, followed by long vowel sounds, then sounds as in er-ir-ur (the rooster’s call) ‘aw’, ‘ar’, ‘ow’, or, ‘oo’ and ‘ew’.

For ‘look and say’ words, I use home-made flash cards, which I also use for revising consonant sounds and for games. I found that Pelmanism, a game recommended for such children, was too challenging for them. Also, games, such as sound Bingo, have to allow for all of them to win. They take losing very hard.

I take ‘look and say’ sentences from their reading books, Literacy 1-2-3 books, sentences I write myself and some the children speak or write. I start with sentences such as “What is your name?” and “My name is ….” Then we write the sentences on strips of card and cut them up into words. Their challenge is then to identify the words separate from the sentence. After a while they can use these words to make new sentences.

Was I successful in assisting these children in learning to read? Yes and no. Of the seven, three progressed at a faster pace. One girl reached the point where I thought it would be more beneficial for her to remain in her class. To her that was a punishment - she passively resisted by downing her tools, so I took her back. Two other boys gave me the most trouble, with mischievous behavior, especially when they were together. I’m still trying to persuade one of them that, yes, he can learn to read – he had demonstrated that he could, but his progress was slow. He told me that his father beat him because he couldn’t read. No wonder he has negative attitudes towards reading! One girl had such poor attendance that she made little headway; while another needed special help, which I’m not qualified to give. However, Ms. Brown, the grade 2 coordinator, was appreciative of my efforts which she thought had made a difference.
Computer Lab
      Fortunately, Chetwood has a modern computer lab and an Academy of Reading programme, which they use with children in grade 3 and up. Children who haven't yet learnt to read get a second chance, and those who are already reading use it to improve their literacy skills.
A mural on the stairway

Why did I choose to volunteer to help children with reading? For some time, I’ve been pondering the causes of high illiteracy rate in Jamaica, and its social effects. Can we as citizens do anything to improve literacy? Since retiring, I’ve had a number of pupils wanting help with reading, and I wanted to see children in the school setting. My observations confirmed my view that children learning to read
    1. need individual attention every day (although I wasn’t able to commit to that, and their teachers aren't able to give that either), and
    2. need encouragement, praise and affirmation.
Together, we can fill these needs. I started with a new group of grade 2 students today. If any of you reading this would like to help, please let me know.
   Children also need access to plenty of books at their reading level. This presents a logistical challenge but is not impossible to achieve.
   The other vital ingredient in the reading recipe is motivation. Children who want to learn to read will (as long as they have no specific learning disability), but unfortunately many who lack this vital ingredient will not. While we can contend that improving literacy levels will lead to a more educated society, and improve the standard of living for all, some of the very families who want to improve their status, don't have the reading culture necessary to inspire their children.
from Book Community Board by Lucia Luz

Friday, September 14, 2012

Presenting Books donated by #1 Love Medusa Reunion

At Mt Alvernia Prep with Mrs. McPherson, Principal and Mrs. Frazer
 In July, persons visiting for Jamaica 50, donated copies of Delroy in the Marog Kindom to the school they used to attend, or another school of their choice. Now that the new school year has started, I had an incentive to arrange visits to schools to deliver the books. My first stop was Mount Alvernia Preparatory School where I presented books donated by Richard Lam and Robert Chin. There I talked to teachers about their book club and the problems that Jamaican and Caribbean authors have in getting their books known about and into schools.

With Mrs. Forrester
 On Thursday,  Sep 6, I visited St. James Preparatory School, where I read to Grade 6 from Delroy in the Marog Kingdom. The childen obviously enjoyed the excerpts and were full of questions. I presented to their teacher, Mrs. Forrester, the copies donated by Karen Lue and Audrey Tenn.

With Mrs. Dalley
The following day, which was being celebrated as International Literacy day, I read to grades 5-5 and 5-6 at Corinaldi Avenue Primary School. They too enjoyed the reading and I was sorry I didn't have more time to spend with them. I presented to Mrs. Belinda Dalley, Literacy Specialist, the book donated by Justin Lue.

Mr. Jones receiving a book
Monday, Sept 10, saw me at Barracks Road Primary School, where I spoke to the students at assembly about the importance of reading. I presented to Mr. Jones, Principal, the book donated by Pam Morris. After the presentation I visited all five grade 1 classes, each with forty-five students (down from fifty the previous year!). My message to them was that they should (1) read as much as they could; (2) study their spellings and (3) ask for help if needed. A few years ago, I would have put less emphasis on spelling, but given the inconsistencies of spelling and pronunciation in the English language, I have realized that studying spellings is a reliable way of learning to decode words, which after a period of time a child will recognize instantly.  However, it's not much use telling a child to study spellings if, when he gets home, he can't decipher the words on the list. Hence my suggestion to ask for help.
   I spoke for about ten minutes to each class, but even for that short time, I was unable to hold all their attentions. I don't think I had the attention of some of them at all. It was the first time I had been asked to give a 'pep-talk' to six-year-olds. In hindsight, I think it would have been better to read them a short story, with props, to illustrate that reading is to be enjoyed, and have a short Q & A session.  Given the number of children who have to be accommodated in limited space, I don't think the teachers have much option but to teach the children in the way that they do, but for some of the boys, this is clearly not best way to interest them in education. More opportunity for free movement and hands-on activities might suit them better.
   The final presention, for the time being, was made by Mrs. Fay Chin to Mrs. Campbell, Principal of Chetwood Memorial Primary School. This is the school where I volunteer to assist with reading - more about that in another post.
Mrs. Fay Chin donating my book to Mrs. Campbell at Chetwood.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Teaching English as a Second Language to Jamaican Children

I’m no linguist, so I can’t put forward an academic argument to support the moot that Jamaican patois, or creole, is a separate language from English, but my own experience tells me that it should be treated as such. If I attempted to speak patois, any Jamaican would recognize instantly that I am a not Jamaican by birth.

When I first arrived in Jamaica to teach, I couldn’t understand patois speakers, some of whom took delight in exploiting my ignorance. After about 6 months, I was able to follow some conversations, but I was strongly discouraged from attempting to ‘speak bad’, especially with my students who needed to learn correct English. As patois is difficult to learn and my attempts to speak it were greeted with peals of laughter, I gave up trying. More helpful people pointed to what I should listen for in patois, such as ‘oonu’ for ‘you’ plural, and the use of ‘dem’ after a noun to make it plural.

One of the many Ladybird books available today 
My next patois lessons came when my daughter started school. “She talks such nice English,” said the teacher after her first day. It was the last day she spoke such nice English for a while, but she gradually learnt the usefulness of both forms of communication. I subsequently started my own prep school, where I became fascinated by the process by which children learn to read.

There was no alternative to teaching reading in standard English. I used the Ladybird books and a mix of phonics, whole words and sentences. I made a point of listening to every child reading every day and keeping careful records of their progress. I remember the day when a little boy looked at the words in his book, then the picture and said, “See de bud deh”, when what was written was “Look at the bird.” He had seen the words before and been told what they were, but had translated them.

Today's Ladybird books are more multicultural than in the past

Further patois lessons came when I was teaching communication at Montego Bay Community College. Early in the course came a unit on Jamaica’s two languages, which I confess to not teaching very well. It was not until I retired and started writing stories with dialogue in patois that I felt I needed to know more. For the first story I wrote, I had my daughter correct my patois, but when I sent it to Joanne Johnson, in Trinidad, her first response was ‘Tame the patois.’ When doing an online course at UCLA and subsequently being part of an online critique group, the readers told me they couldn’t understand parts written in patois. It would be pointless to write books with dialogue comprehensible only to Jamaicans, and expect an international readership. As a compromise, I write my dialogue in non-standard English. This lets me off the hook in relation to improving my patois for the purpose of writing dialogue.

So, if patois is a separate language from English, and is the only language spoken by many pre-school children, doesn’t it stand to reason that English is their second language?

In his article ‘Stop demonising Patois -From a semi-lingual to a bilingual Jamaica’ in the Sunday Gleaner, August 26, 2012, Hubert Devonish professor of linguistics and coordinator of the Jamaican Language Unit, UWI, Mona, mentions a project undertaken by that Unit:

“In the Jamaican situation, a fully bilingual or dual-education programme would involve the use of both Jamaican and English as languages of education, in the same roles, side by side. This is what took place in a Ministry of Education-sanctioned Bilingual Education Project run in a Corporate Area primary school between 2004 and 2008 by the Jamaican Language Unit. Textbooks for mathematics, social studies, science and the language arts were translated into Jamaican. These were made available alongside the textbooks written in English….. The pupils learnt to read and write in both languages.” (my italics).

(Does he mean that non-readers were taught to read in both patois and English, or were they first taught to read in patois? I would welcome an opportunity to see material they used to teach reading.)

A fully bilingual programme as designed by Dr. Devonish would involve the preparation of a great deal of material and the training of thousands of teachers, which is not likely to happen any time soon. Furthermore, the suggestion of teaching children in patois has given rise to a flare-up of protest on the talk shows and in the print media.
There are other possible methods of teaching a second language, including ‘complete immersion’ in which all subjects are taught in the second language. There are schools in other countries where all students, who come from different language backgrounds, are taught in one language. In French-speaking parts of Canada, some children, whose home language is English, attend schools where all classes are in French.

What is the difference between this method and what obtains in Jamaican schools, where all classes are taught in standard English? I submit that it is in how children and teachers perceive the home language. The child who speaks only patois may be told he ‘talks bad’. He thinks he is talking the same language as his teacher, but is given the impression that there is something wrong with the way he expresses himself, thus lowering his self-esteem. An English-speaking child in a French-speaking school in Canada would not be given the impression that his mother tongue is inferior. I think from the outset, it should be explained to children that patois is their home language, the language they use to talk to their friends, the language of music lyrics and so on. The school language, English, is another way of expressing ideas, and is the language of books, of business and commerce, of science and engineering and which is spoken by hundreds of millions of people the world over.
Philip Clarke

Philip Clarke, lecturer in Communication Studies at Montego Bay Community College, carried out research into why some students of above average intelligence performed so poorly in CSEC English. He found that there was a link between how students feel and how they learn English – sensing that their home language, patois, was regarded as inferior lowered their self-esteem. He also found that they resented English, which they regarded as the language of the colonialists and oppressors. They saw the use of patois is an act of resistance by dub poets and singers. They regarded English as a subject to be studied rather than means of communication which they needed to master. His remedy for these attitudes was to include patois in his classes and then to focus on teaching them how to communicate effectively and appropriately. He also recommended that strategies be designed so that teachers in a creole-speaking environment can effectively teach students to communicate, be proud of who they are and have a love of learning.

This I feel should be the substance of our discussion on this subject, with the emphasis on how to teach communication, not on whether patois is a separate language from English.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Delroy and the Marog Princess on Amazon

Delroy and the Marog Princess is now available on Amazon. Click on the link to get to my Amazon page, where you are invited to look inside the book, and of course purchase!

There were a few obstacles to overcome, including not being able to upload the cover. Fortunately, my illustrator, Erold Bailey, was able to upload it for me. Thank you, Erold. I had set the price at $5.99, so was taken aback when I saw that it was on offer for $7.99. Discovering that there is a $2.00 charge if you are not on the continental US, I dropped my price to $3.99, so you can buy it for $5.99.
The formatting for Amazon differs from formatting for Smashwords in several ways. In the building of the Table of Contents, Amazon uses the 'heading' method, while Smashwords builds it from hyperlinks and bookmarks. For Amazon, you put in page breaks, but not for Smashwords. For Amazon, you save your file as an HTML  document for Amazon, but for Smashwords as a Word 1997-2003 document. The methods of uploading and previewing also differ slightly. You can have your book on both Amazon and Smashwords, but you need to indicate on the Smashwords Channel Manager that you don't want them to distrubute to Amazon. If you want to opt for Kindle Direct Publishing Select, instead of the regular KDP, you can't publish anywhere else.
  I would recommend anyone wanting to self-publish to do their own formatting for both Amazon and Smashwords. It gives you more control over your work and of necessity you have to re-read one more time and pick up any errors that may have slipped through your previous edits. If a non-technical person like me can do it, so can you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

'Delroy in the Marog Kingdom' at the Granville Reading Program

This is a follow-up to the guest blog with Natalie Bennett on the Summer Reading and Arts Program. On July 23, I went with  friends and family to the Granville Community Centre, where we were warmly greeted by Jakki Strong-Rhoden, the co-ordinator of the program. She suggested that we start by gathering a group of children around each of us at different tables and  read age-appropriate material to them.  We observed some of the problems Natalie mentioned, especially the inattention and tendency for the children to get confrontational with each other.
   After about half an hour, most of the children enrolled in the program had arrived, so it was time for me to read from Delroy and the Marog Kingdom. This story is actually intended for 9-13 year-olds, so I was not expecting the younger ones to concentrate for long. However, as I began by introducing them to the frog who says "Ribbit, ribbit" and asking if frogs could talk, in order to explain that this story is not only fiction, but is also fantasy, their attention was engaged. Then an 11-year-old boy, acting as Delroy, put the frog in the pot and another boy, acting as Mario, clamped on the lid. Acting as Delroy's mama, I screamed when I opened the pot and saw the frog. I also read from the chapter 'River Mumma' and of Delroy's conversion into a marog (a type of frog). I hope that the parts of the story I read were enough to motivate the older children to read the whole story for themselves.

Presenting a copy of my book to Jakki

Thanks to Dr. Doris Channer-Watson, who, in addition to buying a copy of Delroy in the Marog Kingdom, paid for a copy to be given to a worthy recipient, I was able to donate it to the Granville Summer Programme. People have suggested to me that I should donate copies of my book to schools. I would love to be able to do this, but I cannot afford to, as I myself have to purchase them. I do not have a stack of free books to give away! When you buy a book, the author receives only a small percentage. The rest goes to the publisher, who has paid for the cover design, editing, typesetting, printing, shipping and warehousing; and to the bookshops who have all their overheads to cover. Neither the publisher, nor author nor bookshop can afford to give away books, unless it is for promotional purposes, from which they expect to get some returns.  However, if anyone reading this post would like to purchase a copy of my book to be given to a school, I would be happy to read to the children from my book at the same time as it is presented to the school.