Can you imagine children reading the stories they have written to little ones in a basic school? Magical! The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission invited the Jamaican Observer Junior Writers’ Club to participate in World Storytelling Day ( March 20) by reading their stories to children at the Radio Jamaica Basic School . (Basic school is Early Childhood level) .
The ten-year-old club members (one is 9) were a bit nervous at the thought of it, but we assured them that the children were very little and it would be like reading to younger brothers and sisters. And so that all would go as well as possible, our club members came to the Observer one afternoon earlier in the week to practise their reading, expression, projection, pausing and pace.
And I must say that the parents and teachers of these children have been most supportive of the children, bringing them to workshops regularly, and for something which is not to pass an exam, as in extra lessons, but which they realize will enrich their children’s lives. All is not lost! The children have been taught the basics of story writing by me, and the stories have been then edited by me, in consultation with them, and our editorial team of Debra Gail Williamson and Olivia Johnson Wilmot. And it is consultation, which is great; the children are very sure about what they want in their stories, and you have to explain why things have to be changed. Indeed, they are young writers!
At our practice session, Olivia Johnson Wilmot gave them a fact sheet on how to introduce themselves and their story, how to ask an introductory question, and how to end their reading by saying ‘thank you’. She is actually a brilliant teacher. She also got the assistance of her father in-law, Billy Wilmot of Royal Palm fame ( a local soap opera that has been running for years here), to assist the children. It was fascinating to watch him work with the children. I saw its effect first hand as he came to work with the little boy who was doing his practice run with me. What I saw was not only the effect of his Mr. Wilmot’s stage craft, but also the effect of the older male on the young male. It was as if he breathed more confidence into 'my' little boy. This is why we need more male teachers. You’ve heard it said that our boys are surrounded by female authority figures, mothers, grandmothers, female teachers, and they are all wonderful, but none of them knows what it is to be male. I think it must be similar to the way we interact with other women. There is a femaleness which we can identify in each other. So too there must be this male identity. I know, "Hello!’' you’re saying! "Doesn’t everybody know this?” Yes, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it right in front of my eyes. I know Uncle Billy is quite impressive with his grey locks neatly tide back, but it’s more than that. Watching this interaction, it was as if someone poured water on a wilting plant and the leaves just lifted their heads again.
This could be a secret success potion for our boys. I’ve seen male teachers manage classes of little children and it’s different from a female teacher; however, it’s equally caring and wonderful.
Back to our reading: At the basic school, each of our writers read to a class. Some read to more than one, as there were more classes than children, and two read to an older group which had been joined together for the reading in their assembly area. The little children were attentive. They asked questions; they even answered questions. Wow! Our ‘clubbites’ enjoyed the reading of their stores; they enjoyed the interaction with the little children. They came away confident that they had achieved something wonderful. And I saw two male teachers at the school. Again, wonderful!
The school welcomed us. The little children entertained us with choral speaking by way of saying thanks, and snacks were provided for all by our sponsor National Baking Company Ltd. For myself, I was impressed with our children, the basic school and its staff, and all the sponsors, of course. The photos taken (some of which are on this page) appeared in the Jamaica Observer, and there was one of each of the children reading. Noted as excellent organization.
But most of all, can you imagine what seemingly little seed was planted that day which may grow into a great tree with spreading branches? Ten-year-olds have been empowered by the realization that their written word and their spoken word can bring joy to little children. The little children, no doubt to their astonishment, saw that children a little older than they are have this magnificent power of writing and reading and storytelling. Everybody has been enriched by this. How many writers will come out of these groups? We do not know, but we do know that on that day little lives have been changed by the knowledge that there is something that can be achieved, that there is a knowledge and skill and power to which one can aspire. We just don’t know where this will lead to, my friends, but it’s all good.
Remember, that these stories are printed in the Learning Corner of the Jamaica Observer.