Monday, September 7, 2015

Dr. Pearnel Bell's Books for Children

“There was a little girl named Jay. She wanted to know the answer for everything. Her mother called her Curious Jay. Her parents taught her about feelings and many other everyday issues.” All young children are curious, but very often their questions go unanswered and their curiosity is stifled. Child psychologist, Dr. Pearnel Bell, is well aware of the effect of this on children and the assistance parents need. Thus she has written a set of books about “The Adventures of Dooney the Donkey and Curious Jay”.  They serve as a starting point for discussions with children about feelings, conflict management, understanding loss and grief, and understanding differences. With their delightful illustrations, they also add to the available picture books about Jamaican children. In addition to the Curious Jay books, she has also written "My First Book of Relaxation Techniques for Children". 

Dr. Bell launched her books on June 26, 2015 at Jackie’s Treasure, 55 Union Street, Montego Bay. The program was chaired by Joy Crooks, founder of CUMI. Her theme was ‘smart’ – we have smart phones, smart TV’s, and smart parents who will recognize the importance of Dr. Bell’s books. I brought greetings and congratulated Dr. Bell on having the perseverance  to publish these books, as I know the challenges faced by authors in self-publishing, which can sometimes be a loss-making venture. Marvette Sterling brought greetings from the Child Development Agency.
Joy Crooks, chairperson

A cultural item in the form of a puppet show followed. Teachers, who had taken part in a workshop earlier in the day, used glove puppets to dramatize the story of Dooley the Donkey and Curious Jay – appreciating one’s own abilities and the differences between people.
The Guest Speaker was Dr. Claudette Crawford-Brown,  a clinical social worker and child welfare consultant. As an academic for over thirty years, her innovative direct intervention strategies have led to landmark publications on Caribbean children, adolescents and families. She congratulated the teachers on their puppet show which they had put together that very afternoon in her workshop, commenting that in a US University she would have to pay actors for the role play. Dr. Crawford-Brown emphasized the importance of story-telling and the way in which it transmits values in Caribbean societies, which are under assault from ‘smart’ technologies.  She will be doing more workshops in the future using Dr. Bell’s books. She explained that the problems adults have originate in childhood, and that guidance counsellors and therapists can use these books with children to heal and repair. Furthermore, they add to the diversity in the limited range of picture books about Jamaican children.
Dr. Pearnel Bell, author
The keynote address was followed by the author’s response, after she was introduced by Mrs. Shona Heron.  At the end of the program, refreshments were served and Dr. Bell signed copies of her books. Some members of the audience made generous donations of sets of books to schools. Parents, who are already hard-pressed from having to buy so many school books, are unlikely to buy these books because of the high price (US $21.99 on Amazon) necessitated by high cost of self-publishing and distribution. I hope sponsorship will be found to make them available to the guidance counsellors of all primary schools in Jamaica.

I myself purchased The Adventures of Dooney the Donkey with Curious Jay: Understanding Conflict  Management   on Kindle for $5.99. Below is the review I wrote for it:
New approaches to conflict management are desperately needed in Jamaica, where, instead of themselves trying to find the source of a conflict, parents often advise children to hit back. The Adventures of Dooney the Donkey with Curious Jay: Understanding Conflict  Management is a useful starting point for discussion between parents and children about conflict management. The concepts such as ‘conflict’ and ‘identifying problems’ which are hard for children to understand are explained by the example of the conflict between Dooney the Donkey and Ramos the Goat. The advantages of resolving conflicts without resorting to physical means are discussed. This book could be read by a good reader of grades 2 and up on his own, but would be far more worthwhile if discussed with a parent or teacher. Children could be encouraged to identify their own sources of conflict, keep a journal and write their own stories. There is no mention of feelings, which must come into play and should also be discussed. Dr. Bell deals with feelings in The Adventures of Dooney the Donkey with Curious Jay: Understanding Feelings.

Another of Dr. Bell's books which should be available to teachers in all primary schools is

A Teacher's Guide to Understanding the Disruptive Behaviour Disorders : Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Conduct Disorder. You can  read my review of this book in my blog of Sep 2, 2013. All Dr. Bell's books can be purchased at Jackie's Treasure, 55 Union Street, Montego Bay, as well as on Amazon.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Yellow Poui

The Yellow Poui is one of Jamaica’s beautiful flowering trees, but its yellow blossom lasts only one or two days. I have long puzzled over how all the Poui trees in Montego Bay synchronize their flowering. They normally flower in March or April, at the end of the usual dry season. There’s a saying that if students haven’t started studying for exams when the Yellow Pouis flower, they are cutting things too close.  This would normally hold true, but this year and last Pouis have flowered again in August and September. In the worst drought in decades, they have been leafless for months. Then after some heavy showers over the weekend, they burst into flower on Thursday, so I presume that was the trigger. The pollinators of the flowers, insects and tiny hummingbirds, feast on nectar. The fruits, long pods, grow quickly, then dry and open releasing wind-dispersed, papery-winged seeds. They spring up all over the place, but their survival rate is low. Most of the Poui trees we see are planted for decorative purposes.