Thursday, December 8, 2016

And more readers who read in schools for Child Month 2016

While most of our readers were writers of material for children or YA, there were others who either wrote for adults, or weren't writers at all. So as we get to the end of the year, thanks must go to all of them who responded to the call from JaWS to read in our schools.

Rebecca Tortello:
I read at Carbury Court pictured here with the librarian in the library. It was lots of fun to read with the children as they participated eagerly, and I wound up reading three  stories as they showed such keen interest.  Lots of smiles all around. 
I read Big and book part of Literacy 123,  Silly Sally Audrey W ood and Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andrae. All three are good read alouds that invite movement and laughter but also promote thought and reflection.

I enjoyed reading…encouraged me to write again. 

Bio: From 2007-2011, Dr. Rebecca Tortello served as a Senior Advisor/Consultant to the Minister of Education with special responsibility for early childhood, primary and parenting issues. Dr. Tortello holds a PhD in Comparative Education and Sociology from Columbia University, a Masters in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s Degree with Honours in History and Literature from Harvard University.

A former Assistant Professor of Education at New York’s Adelphi University, for the past ten years, Dr. Tortello regularly lectures at the University of the West Indies. She is the author of a number of articles on education as well as the popular history book, “Pieces of the Past – A Stroll Down Jamaica’s Memory Lane” (now in its second printing). Dr. Tortello has edited and advised on a number of early childhood series for Jamaica and co-written the Teacher's Guide for Pearson's "1,2,3, You and Me." She has also written a number of children’s books including "My Jamaican ABCs," “Nancy and Grandy Nanny,” and the Ministry of Education’s titles, “Big and Strong” and “Colouring My School.”

From April 2012 to February 2015, Dr. Tortello focused on expanding the scope of the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation as its General Manager.  In March 2015, she began a new position as Quality Education Advisor at UNICEF Jamaica.
Dr. Tortello has also served on various school boards, the National Council on Education, the Jamaica Library Service, the Council of the Institute of Jamaica, chairing its Museums Division, as well as the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO, the Early Childhood Commission and the National Museum Foundation.
Dr. Tortello is married to Dr. Jonathan Greenland and they have two young children, Rhys and Maria.

Marie Cunnigham-Clarke
Book read: "Abigail's Glorious Hair" by Diane Browne

  The Grade 3 class connected immediately with the story about Abigail's "Poufey" hair.  Both the boys and girls enjoyed reminiscing on their own Poufey hair and having it combed and de-tangled to their own occasional "OW!"  The children joined in the "one two twist, one two twist" chorus as Abigail's mother daintily parted and twisted her hair to produce eight beautiful twists all over Abigail's head.  They LOVED the illustrations and in particular the girls exclaimed with delight when they saw Abigail's trendy outfit and hairstyle at the end of the story.  The session ended with the students drawing different aspects of the story.  The  Class Monitor then formally thanked me on behalf of the students.  A truly delightful experience to see how the book boosted the self image of the children and helped them to celebrate and appreciate their African roots.  I was subsequently invited to be a guest reader to a Grade 4 class on June 1, Literacy Day. 

Bio: Marie Cunnigham-Clarke, is a Communications Consultant (retired). She conceptualized and is responsible for adjudicating a Speak Up Programme at St Andrew High School for Grades 7-10 students.  The programme  aims to improve students' use of Standard English through annual conversational, poetry and literary  competitions. Grade level winners receive cash and book prizes.

Marie was recently elected President of The International Proxy Parents (IPP), a non-profit organization which raises funds for less fortunate children  in Jamaica. Each year IPP gives over $1.5m in scholarships  and assistance to State run childrens' homes in Jamaica.

 Erika Heslop Martin
 “Reading maketh a full man, so read and read all you can”. (Francis Bacon) This is a powerful statement and I believe that it was very fitting for the “Read Across Jamaica” programme organized by the Jamaican Writers Society and the Jamaica Library Service. On April 27, 2016, I started the reading programme at Holy Childhood Preparatory School. I read from the children’s story book: “No Boy like Amanada” written by Hope Barnett. The children had a wonderful time. They were filled with enthusiasm and excitement.
On May 3, 2016, “Read Across Jamaica Day,” I read from the children’s story book: “Butterfly Meadows” by Olivia Moss at Elim Early Childhood Development Centre. It was such a delightful experience with these 5 and 6 year old children. On May 10, 2016, I read the fishing chapter from the children’s book: “No Boy Like Amanda “ to a group of 4th graders from the Porter’s Centre for Knowledge, this was facilitated by Bookophilia. These children were remarkable! Their motto for the day was: “Readers are leaders!”
On May 27, 2016, I read to another group of children from New Providence Primary School which was also facilitated by Bookophilia. It was wonderful! The book that I read from was: “Tek mi! Tek mi noh!” a book of Caribbean folk tales published by Carlong Publishers Limited. The reading programme was great and I would definitely participate again. Many thanks to the Jamaican Writers Society and Jamaica Library Service for organizing the programme.
Bio: Erika Heslop Martin is a Writer/Poet and Business Professional with over twenty years of writing experience and over twelve years of professional experience in accounting, financial and administrative management from several corporate entities in Jamaica.  She is a graduate of Camperdown High, the University of Technology, Jamaica and the University College of the Caribbean. She has published three books of poetry and motivational messages (A Poetic Revelation, The Power of Words and A Poetic Journey) and is in the process of writing other books. She contributes poetry to the Sunday Gleaner periodically, Facebook , you tube and She also presents poetry at a wide variety of events and judges poetry competitions as well. Her books can be found on Amazon and in several bookstores in Jamaica. She is a Director of the Jamaican Writers Society, a member of Book Industry Association of Jamaica, a member of the Poetry Society of Jamaica, a member of JAM Copy, a member of We Connect International and a member of Young Entrepreneurs Association of Jamaica. She is a Creative Entrepreneur with a lot of potential; and is excited about exploring and utilizing all her talents to live a more fulfilling life and to make a positive contribution to her country and the world at large. She loves to write, read, recite poetry, dance, sing, cook, dabble into fashion, take pictures, travel, motivate others to be the best they can be and invest time with God, family and friends.





Wednesday, December 7, 2016

More authors who read in schools for Child Month 2016

Melanie Schwapp:

I read at Holy Childhood Prep. School to the Kindergarten classes. I read Abigail’s Glorious Hair by Diane Browne and ‘Lally-May’s Farm Suss’ written by me.  

Abigail’s Glorious Hair sparked a lively discussion about hair and the joys and stresses of combing it. Many of the girls were thrilled to show that they had the same hairstyle as Abigail. Some of the boys expounded on going to the barber and the fact that they did not have to comb their hair every day.
Lally-May’s episode with the rolling half and Jonkanoo had them mesmerised and a little frightened, because many of them had never heard of the myth of the rolling calf, and only a handful had ever seen Jonkanoo. Again, a lively discussion of ‘scary’ things and how brave they were when they had to face frightening things. A few of the boys demonstrated some karate moves that they would use to fight the Jonkanoo if ever faced with the Lally-May scenario. 

Melanie Schwapp was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She attended Montego Bay High School in St. James from 1st to 5th form, then was enrolled in St. Andrew High School for Girls in 1982 to sit her A’level exams.
Two short migrations at two key stages of her life, opened Melanie’s eyes to the cultural and social discriminations in society, and thus began her quest for understanding through writing. At the age of five she moved to England with her family, where she was awakened to the nature of colour prejudice, and then during her late teens and early twenties, she attended the University of South Carolina, where the subtle traits of discrimination cemented her interest in the social repercussions of these prejudices.
Although Melanie has written recreationally all her life, her first published work was a children’s book, Lally-May’s Farm Suss in 2005 in which she revives a Jamaican myth and several cultural aspects through the eyes of a child. Her second publication was the novel Dew Angels in 2011 where she explores the hidden aspect of prejudice and other social handicaps in Jamaican society. Having fallen in love with the rural lifestyle while growing up on her
grandparents’ farm in Montego Bay, Melanie also does small garden landscaping and interior decorating. She is a devoted mother to her three children and a sometimes devoted wife to her husband. She resides in Kingston.


Diana McCaulay:
Diana McCaulay is an award winning Jamaican writer and a lifelong resident of its capital city Kingston.  She has written two critically acclaimed novels, Dog-Heart (March 2010) and Huracan (July 2012), published by Peepal Tree Press in the United Kingdom.  Dog-Heart won a Gold Medal in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s National Creative Writing Awards (2008), was shortlisted for the Guyana Prize (2011), the IMPAC Dublin Award (2012) and the Saroyan Prize for International Writing (2012).   Huracan was also shortlisted for the 2014 Saroyan Prize. Her third novel, Gone to Drift (February 29, 2016) is published by Papilote Press, placed second in the Burt Prize for Caribbean Literature and won the Lignum Vitae Vic Reid Award in 2015. 
Diana won the Hollick Arvon Prize for Caribbean writing in 2014, for her non fiction work-in-progress Loving Jamaica: a memoir of place and (not) belonging. 
Diana founded the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) in 1991 and still serves as its CEO and guiding force.   She was a popular newspaper columnist for The Gleaner (1994-2001) and her short fiction has been published by the journal Eleven Eleven, Granta On Line, Fleeting Magazine, The Caribbean Writer, Afro-Beat, Lifestyle Magazine and the Jamaica Observer’s literary supplement, Bookends.  She was the regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2012, for her short story The Dolphin Catchers.  
Diana was born into the Jamaican upper-middle class and has spent a lifetime pondering questions of race, class, colour, and privilege in Jamaican society.  The honest and penetrating insights in her novels and stories come from sharp observation and profound self-reflection.  Hers is a uniquely authentic voice from a background which usually turns away from all that she unflinchingly faces.
 (I am having all sorts of challenges with the font, as I capture the words of the authors. So apologies for that, but I think you will enjoy what they have to say, what motivates them. I love hearing why authors write what they write.)



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Towards a gentler Jamaica: Authors/readers sharing the magic of stories in schools

Why should you consider having a local author come to your school and share the love of reading and writing with your students?
Well it is one of those little things which has a ripple effect that  keeps on giving dividends. It allows the students to recognize that there are Jamaicans who write books, that the writing of literature is not just a gift given to people who are abroad. This then encourages students who  themselves wish to write; but also it encourages the students to appreciate themselves and their environment. This bolsters their self confidence. You cannot develop a positive sense of self, if your sense of self is rooted elsewhere, in other books from other lands. You cannot develop a nation if your sense of self and all things good is located elsewhere, in other books from other lands.

Moreover reading and writing, in this new world of 140 characters, is at risk. Getting the full understanding of what another human being wants to say in this world of abbreviated language, is at risk. OMG! Sharing with an author and fellow students, words, paragraphs chapters, which  may lead to shared opinions, experiences, not only allows for  brain activity,  but also perhaps, perhaps a vision for the future, perhaps for a gentler Jamaica. I think every school should invite at least one author per term (okay per year) to visit their school and share their stories with their students. I think anything that helps us to develop self confidence and a gentler society is essential at this time. We are at a crossroads. So is the rest of the world actually; big, big cross roads! But our focus has be on us at this time.

I read somewhere that some representatives for office no longer have to be able to read and write in English as it was decided that that was a colonial device to belittle us/exclude us, the people. Nobody could have really said that, eh. However, if you believe that having to read and write English, (in a world where English is still an official language) is an imposition put upon you by ‘bad-mind’ people,  you might also be interested in buying an entire big country (not just an island or the Brooklyn Bridge)  at a discounted rate, J$1.00. Always be wary of those who require you to know less, especially when it’s something they have already mastered, or can easily master.

If you’re reading this, I’m reaching to the converted, eh. However, I’m not preaching, just sharing with you  thoughts, and dreams, and hopes which cannot be encapsulated in 140 characters or abbreviated language. LOL! For a long time I thought that meant lots of love, and I was astonished at all the love people were sending around. Personally, I think DWL is more Jamaican, (as in ded wid laugh!)

So I'm sharing with you the experiences of some of our writers who went into our schools and read for the children to celebrate Child Month (under the auspices of the Jamaican Writers Society). You will see from their comments that the children enjoyed their visits immensely. I will also include the bios of the authors/readers (because it’s interesting to see who writes/read and the reasons that motivated them)  and some photos (because photos always make for a more interesting blog). Perhaps you can get  some of them to read at your school if you wish.

Jean Forbes: Reading  in schools for Child Month, 2016
I did two readings for Child Month at Alvernia Prep.  For the pre kindergarten level, I read  The Happiness Dress and Abigail’s Glorious Hair, by Diane Browne, and they were very well received. For the kindergarten and grade one levels, I read Late Again from Little Lennie's Leisure time book (out of print) and Why the Rain Bird Calls the Rain by Jean Forbes, from the new Caribbean Junior Reader. I thought it might have been long but they enjoyed the stories and it generated a lot of discussion. 
On the second day, by request, I read The Happiness Dress and Abigail’s Glorious Hair again and A Right to be Me (audio book).
Bio: Jean is one of the original members of the Children's Writers Circle.

I am a widow and the mother of three boys and grandma to nine. I have won several silver and bronze medals and certificates of merit in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission literary competitions. I have had historical articles and short stories published in The Gleaner, The Observer, Jamaica InterCom (No longer published) . My children's stories have also been aired on the local children's programme, Colgate Cavity fighters programme. In addition, some of my children's stories published in collections by The Children's Writers Circle, are The Ghost in “Double Trouble and other stories” and Lydia in “Just Suppose and other stories”. Selectco published Late Again in Little Lennies Leisure Time Book. 1. Ginn Publishers used Why the Rainbird Calls the Rain in their New Caribbean Reader Book and Carlong Publishers used The Legend of Martha Brae in TeK Mi, Noh TekMi!, one of the books in their Sand Pebbles series. The Ministry of Education uses some of my stories in their print publications. In their audio Books they have used Midnight Earns Friends, Night Blooming Cereus, Toady, None Like Me and Why the Rain Bird Calls the Rain. “Kids Read”, a Canadian Publication has used Midnight Earns Friends in its Summer 2015 collection. The Little Christmas Tree was published as a story colouring book

●I hold a diploma in writing for children from the Institute of Children's and I am Fellow Of The Life Management Institute with specialties in Personnel Management and Administrative Management
●Presenter and Resource person for CARICOM/OAS workshop for new writers held at the Liguanea Club Jamaica in 2000
●Chosen by the JCDC as a Children’s writer to represent Jamaica at the Canadian Caribbean Cultural Exhibition in Toronto Canada in June 2003
More to come or to be continued: