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.