Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reading to Children - A Non-event

Carpet for the children
On Saturday, February 18, 2012 the St. James Parish Library presented “Wi Likkle but Wi Tallawah” intended for young children accompanied by one or two parents. The carpet was laid out for them together with a book display. I was on hand to talk to the parents about the importance of reading to children, to demonstrate ‘how to’ and to answer questions. This was the second installment of an initiative, which was launched in November, but, guess what, nobody came!

Flyers had been distributed and people who were at the launch invited, but clearly this was on nobody’s agenda at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. The library chose this time when they’re not too busy. Was it too early? Is Saturday a bad day? Possibly both, but I think the main reason is that parents who already read to their children didn’t need to come, and parents who don’t read to their children don’t see the necessity of doing so. The latter group needs to be sought out and informed.

Book Display

Where are the little children?
Reading to your children is one of the most important things you can do, for several reasons:

1. It introduces children to story and the written word. From a young age they will know that marks on a page represent ideas.

2. When you take a child on your knee and read a book with him, or read to him when he’s tucked up in bed at night, he associates reading with pleasant emotions, and will be more likely to want to learn to read.

3. The written word differs from the spoken word. (We all know this—we can tell when somebody’s reading a speech as opposed to speaking.) Children learn to speak by hearing speech and copying it. They learn the grammar of the written word by hearing it read. This is as true for children who speak standard English as it is for those who speak patois, but for the patois speakers it is an effortless way of introducing standard English. Children learn how to construct past and present tense, plurals and to use possessive pronouns through hearing them read. When they’ve heard the same story many times, they’ll know it by heart.

How can we help parents who can’t read? Could they use the ‘talking book’ in one of its many forms? I remember cassette tapes that went with books when my daughters were little. I presume these have been superseded by CD’s.

The next “Wi Likkle but Wi Tallawah” will be on Saturday, March 17 and thereafter on every 3rd Saturday. If you know of a parent of young children who would benefit from attending, please let them know about it.


Natalie said...

I'm glad that you participated. How many people actually showed up for the event?

It's just so aggravating to hear about situations like this. Frankly, there's NO justification for creating a children's program the central library on a SATURDAY MORNING in JAMAICA. If someone from another country and who had no clue about Jamaican culture organised that event, I could understand the clear lack of thought. However, I would still ask why didn't they find out how Jamaicans, and particularly people in St. James, usually spend their time on a Saturday morning.

And for the library to choose this as the best time to do it since they were "not as busy" then? You're kidding, right? Because I want to know who thinks that way if you're trying to reach children and bring them into the space?? That says something about how they think about children too - as a problem, a distraction and more work - not the central focus of their jobs.

If people don't read, then what is the use of creating flyers as the only way to draw people? Do we not already know this? In a place where paper is scarce, flyers easily become writing and drawing pads!

If you want to reach people who don't read, then there has to be less disdain and more respect directed at them. If one begins with the attitude that "they won't come anyway" and "they're not interested" then the effort and the thought that goes into such work will be minimal at best.

If any of these government-sponsored programs are to have the intended effect and not just be colossal waste of money, they will need to hire new people who *believe* in the programs, who can think creatively, and who actually want the work to have an impact. The librarians at the parish library don't know how to BE librarians; and I say this from my own experiences there. And I'm definitely not convinced that they actually like children as persons.

Helen said...

Thanks Natalie. Perhaps I hadn't made it clear, the programme was for parents with young children (2-5 I would think) but the point you make about time is a valid one. I wouldn't be so harsh as to say they don't like children as persons, as St James Parish Library puts on a lot of activities for them. I'm sure you're aware of the reading competition. I hope next month I'll have something more positive to report.