Thursday, November 4, 2010

Always a revelation! Is there a missing link?

After my blog on A We Dis? Cultural Representation of the Caribbean in Children’s Books (lecture by Dr. Shelley-Robinson on images about the Caribbean in books produced abroad), Mike Morrissey sent me his article, Away with chimneys and apple trees published in the Journal of English Teachers, November 1995. I remember … it was a revelation! So I wondered how many times we have had this revelation. Michael Reckord, writing in the Sunday Gleaner of May, 26, 1985, said that in an address I had given, I spoke of our local children’s books as being ‘ mirrors for our children’. By then we had produced the Doctor Bird Reading series, local stories for our children. That we could do that was a revelation to many! And no doubt, there had been revelations before. We have written and talked so much about this matter of cultural relevance for our children in books. And each time it seems to be a revelation to those who hear.

I presented a paper at EduVision 2003. A Ministry of Education conference in Montego Bay entitled Authentic Voices: the Case for Caribbean Children’s Literature in Teacher Training Colleges. (The point being that the teachers need to be exposed to Caribbean children’s literature.) I used the words of some of our writers, like Lorna Goodison and Olive Senior, the authentic voices, whose poems speak to us across the years, poems that chronicle bits of our colonial past and therefore require us to find ourselves, validate our present and go forward. It was a revelation to the audience! People were moved, asked what they could do to help to promote children’s literature, put more children’s books into colleges and schools? I was moved! And then nothing much happened after that.

In one of my research projects for my MEd, entitled, “I will not look at books the same way again”: Teachers' Opinions About the Use of Caribbean Children’s Literature. (2003), I introduced a number of Caribbean children’s books to two very capable and creative teachers. They were unaware of the variety of Caribbean children’s books available; they enjoyed this discovery and worked wonders with the children using the books. One of the books is shown above; it was produced in the UK, but it is Caribbean and brings a new interpretation of the image of Anancy. The children loved it. It was a revelation to us all. Before you say, ‘Tchu, is only two teachers’ I would point out that we have all been into the schools and seen the libraries and book corners, and if it was ‘only two’ then there would be no need for any of the discussions that any of us are having. ‘Seen!’

When I first started running writing workshops I used to use this quote from Merle Hodge,

Books transported you always into the familiar solidity of chimneys and apple trees, the enviable normality of real Girls and Boys … Books transported you always into Reality and Rightness, which were to be found Abroad.

Thus it was that I fashioned Helen, my double. Helen wasn’t even my double …She was the Proper Me. And me, I was her shadow hovering in incompleteness.

(Crick Crack Monkey, 1973).

When I first read that it was a revelation, the capitals highlighting the importance of the rightness of things. Don’t you find it scary? You may say, ‘Tchu man, that was colonialism’. Okay! Where does the Right Me exist now? Because for many of us in the Caribbean, Reality and Rightness are still to be found in books, and we’re not in the books, or the books we are in are not getting to the children

Why should Dr. Shelley-Robinson’s lecture (although I’m glad she did it) still be a revelation in 2010, thirty plus years later? Consequently, when is the discovery of the importance of Caribbean books for Caribbean children going to stop being a revelation and become a reality? What or where is the missing link?

Summer Edward's presentation at the Anansi Conference at New York University, slides shown in her blog of October 30, comprehensively detailed reasons for this lack in/of Caribbean children’s literature.

And so I ask, what is the human element in this equation? What is the 'hidden curriculum'? Why is it always a revelation? When we have the money, why can’t we just start buying Caribbean children’s books, in abundance? What is the missing link? What do you think?


  1. Testing to see if this section has been disabled as someone wants to make a comment on it and can't.

  2. Hi Diane: A belated welcome to the blogging world! I won't go on long, since you're not sure this is up and running, but it is excellent to have someone blogging on Caribbean children's lit! Bon courage!