In today’s Gleaner there was an article on "National Reading Week: Improving student literacy". During the year, there are a number of weeks/days when it seems, sponsored by various organizations, adults read in schools, and I am pleased that these organizations show their interest in this way. National Reading Week, implemented by the Jamaica Reading Association, runs from April 28 to May 4, and this year is sponsored by First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union (FHC). The article in today’s paper highlighted the activities at various schools, indicating that employees will be reading at schools across the island wherever FHC has branches. What caught my eye and gladdened my heart though, was that the article stated that the official book for reading week is No Boy Like Amanda by first time author, Hope Barnett. I’m pleased on two counts; one, because it is a Jamaican book. So often we see photos of people reading books to children and they are foreign books. Of course I’m glad that they are reading any at all, but reading a Jamaican book sends such a positive message to the child. It says, ‘If a Jamaican can write a book, then so can I write a book; my stories matter, my life is important’. Two, choosing a book from a first time author is such a hopeful message to all new authors. I was delighted to meet the author at the Kingston Book Festival some weeks ago as I had already bought her book. (Of course, authors can be delighted to meet other authors; like meeting a celebrity sort of thing. Indeed!) So I laud the Jamaica Reading Association.
Next news: JAMCOPY had a meeting last week to try again to form an authors’ association. There have been many attempts over the years to form authors’ associations and they have faltered as people got discouraged, mainly, I think, because they discovered how difficult it was to get published. One of the longest lasting organizations was the Children’s Writer Circle, founded by Billy Hall and Pat Persaud some 20 plus years ago. It was vibrant for many years and all sorts of creative ways were found to publish and sell/market books. Some years ago when Jean Forbes, Lorise DaCosta, Hazel Campbell and I tried to revive it, it was short lived; I think because we ran in to that same problem - how to get published? This organization being formed now is for all of us writers; children’s, adult, textbook, including journalists, website writers, etc. and editors, the too often forgotten, but essential element in the publishing process. I think that this is a good time for us to try again, because it appears that with the new technologies we can all get published if we wish; self publishing is all the rage. Mind you, the organization will not just be about writing and being published, but will be looking at issues like copyright, standards, and so on. Carole Newman, General Manager of JAMCOPY, gave a comprehensive presentation by way of a guide for us last week. Some of us have volunteered to be on the steering committee. I’ll keep you posted, and at the very least, let you know how you can join once the organization is operational.