Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teaching Reading Made Simple Starts at Erdiston

Dr  Patricia Saul discusses reading issues with a participant.
"Parents are a child's first teachers!" That was the mantra when The Barbados Association of Reading's Teaching Reading Made Simple Team began this year's course at Erdiston Teachers' College last Saturday. Nearly100 participants listened eagerly to Dr Patricia Saul's session on Pre-Reading.

Dr Saul, a literacy researcher and a past president of the Association, emphasized the importance of talk and interaction between parent and child. She discouraged the use of 'baby talk' and suggested that parents use the television as a stimulus for discussion with children.

She urged parents to model the use of Standard English in the home, to read stories to their children and to use the everyday activities of the home as a source of learning.

She also shared key reading theories with the participants and answered questions from the floor. A short assessment was also administered.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Silver Sword - A Barbados Experience

One day, while my class was discussing what they knew about the background to the novel, the Silver Sword and about World Wars, a little boy bravely asked, 'What does World War 2 have to do with Barbados?" This question surprised me because it was the same question asked two nights before at a talk at the Barbados Museum and Historical society. This time the asker was at least fifty years old and followed up the question with the comment that the WW2 Exhibit at the museum needed to be taken down because it was not of relevance to anybody. At that point, those persons who had lived through WW2 as children nearly fainted with outrage and their testimomies of war time patriotism and hardship alerted me to the fact that WW2 did have something to do with Barbados and that we postcolonials have lost that sense of mission and triumph that  our forebears felt then in the global theatre of war.

So, I asked my students to generate a list of questions about the background to the novel and about Barbados' participation in World War 2. Then armed with our list we went to the Barbados Museum's War exhibit for a tour conducted by Miguel, one of the research officers. My aim ws not just to give the kids a history lesson but to relate the context of the novel to Barbados at the time, to humanize the characters  and to have the children acknowledge the universality of their struggles.

To do this, it seemed I had to abandon the general and start with the specificic. I was able to refer to the novel on a number of occasions. The kids were able to see actual soldiers uniforms and medals, the names of Barbadians who had fought in this war that seemed so remote and foreign. They used the ration card artifact to design their own ration card for one of the characters in the book. The boys loved the pictures of planes and fighting machinery and glimpses of the life in a war zone given by the  pictures and postcards from the front. Teacher loved the letters from the front and it gave me the idea for a literature assignment.

But learning went way beyond one novel. The children and I learned that Barbadians who lived on the coast turned off lights at night to prevent submarines from seeing our coastline., that two ships were attacked that fateful day in the Harbour but because of the nets secretly placed between the ships and the subs little damage was done to one ship and the Cornwallis was sunk only because  a missile penetrated a hole in the nets that was caused by a previous torpedo.

I have to say thanks to the little boy who dared to ask and in so doing opened up a world of information to his fellow students and his teacher.

Here are some interesting links on the subject:

How to Explore War with Children

The Barbados Museum has also added a "War Diaries" digital testimonial to its WW2 Exhibit.

If you have an interesting teaching story, share it with us. Email us at

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

“Fostering Peace Through Literacy Empowerment”

One of the most disturbing features of planet Earth at this time is the virtual assault on that peace and equilibrium which is of tremendous importance to man’s welfare.  Open and continuing conflict between Israel and Palestine, uprisings in Egypt, Libya and Syria, internecine wars in parts of Africa, civil protests in England, Greece and other European Countries are the larger expression of violence which mar our peaceful existence.  At the micro level, those who use the gun and other illegal weapons to exert power hold communities to ransom.    In our neighbouring countries of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, States of Emergency have had to be declared to try to deal with the purveyors of violence. Peace is a most important goal of our societies.

The Barbados Association of Reading (BAR) joins with fellow Barbadians and millions of citizens across the world in commemorating International Literacy Day.  The theme selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for this year’s celebrations, “Literacy and Peace”, focuses attention on the relationship between literacy and peace, that most desired equilibrium sought after by mankind . Literacy provides the foundation for lifelong learning and equips individuals with knowledge and skills to enable critical thinking and problem solving.  Peace, which connotes societal equilibrium, should be desirable for every human being.  The attainment of lasting peace, therefore, is a state which every individual, government and country in the world should be aspiring towards achieving and sustaining.

The Barbados Association of Reading is cognizant of the empowering nature of literacy to effect positive behavioural changes in people and supports the efforts of the government through the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development in the provision of educational opportunities from nursery to tertiary level for all citizens of Barbados. We must continue to encourage all citizens, young and old, to maximize the educational opportunities which are provided in this country in an effort to help them achieve their potential and contribute to national development. The efforts of the churches and other non-governmental organizations which offer programmes that provide educational opportunities for Barbadians must also be recognised and commended. The goal of developing citizens who view learning as a lifelong process that can secure personal advancement is everyone’s business and should always be a priority on our national agenda.  We must not underestimate the importance of aggregate personal well being to the overall state of our societies and economies.

This year’s International Literacy Day theme provides us with the timely opportunity to reflect on the status of peace worldwide as well as countrywide.  T Reports of the current state of violence and unrest which is occurring across the world and in the region does not make for comforting news. In Barbados, the recent reports of an upsurge in criminal activity and the revelation by the Commissioner of Police of statistics which highlighted an increase in the number of young people between the ages of eleven and nineteen involved in criminal activity is also caused for concern.

As the country seeks to arrest the current crime situation, solutions must be grounded in the investigation of the root causes of the criminal activity which can eventually lead to disequilibrium in the country if it is not curtailed or minimized.  Societal disequilibrium can also erode the social and economic gains which a country has attained as a result of many years of hard work and sacrifice. Possible solutions to criminal activity and civil unrest must of necessity include efforts to strengthen the literacy skills of those individuals involved through the provision of structured rehabilitative programmes that provide a strong focus on strengthening literacy skills. We must continue to help all citizens to develop the ability to use language as a tool of expression and negotiation in an effort to reduce the number of instances where persons resort to the knife and the gun to help them solve life’s problems.

Literacy equips individuals with the skills and confidence to seek information which would help them make informed choices that can have a direct impact on themselves, their families and their communities.  In addition, literacy provides the impetus for individuals to effectively participate in the democratic process, to have a voice in the community and to contribute to shaping national policies.

In an effort to maintain the relatively peaceful society which all Barbadians enjoy, there is a need for increased support for those citizens who are vulnerable and who feel excluded and marginalized from mainstream society.  Our education system must include, in addition to the academics, programmes that provide opportunities for persons to demonstrate mutual understanding, respect and tolerance and to engage in dialogue.
 The Barbados Association of reading is committed to contributing to the maintenance of a literate and peaceful society.  Guided by the Association’s motto “Building A Nation of Readers”, the organisation recently provided training in literacy education for a group of adult literacy facilitators at the People’s Cathedral as well as for a group of community facilitators attached to the Community Development Division’s branches in St. Joseph. It is our mandate to continue the provision of educational expertise through the delivery of community-based literacy training structured to meet the needs of youth and adults.

The Barbados Association of Reading salutes International Literacy Day 2011 and calls on all stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental, to renew their commitment towards the provision of literacy programmes that support the development of the individual as well as encourage persons to participate in building a just and peaceful society.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

How the World Reads is a project championed by International Reading Association President, Dr. Patricia Edwards. The project aims to inquire into the methods and strategies used by teachers to teach reading and reading comprehension and to ascertain how teachers are trained globally to teach children to read.

Affiliates of the IRA were invited to answer questions on how literacy is supported in their own countries. These questions included:

•If classrooms exist, how are they organized for learning?
•What does a typical school day look like?
•How are teachers selected, educated, and compensated?
•What are the educational resources provided to young learners?
•How are special populations’ educational needs addressed?
•How are differences in language and dialect addressed in schools?

Writing in the August/September 2010 issue of the Reading Teacher, Dr Edwards noted "[w]hile we have learned a great deal about the status of literacy in different countries, what we do not know is how teachers teach children how to read or how teachers are prepared to teach reading in different countries around the world...There have been studies on literacy instruction in a few countries, but to my knowledge, there is no study focused on how the world reads or how reading instruction is taught worldwide. It is time that such a study is done.'

The Barbados Association of Reading's How the World Reads Committee chaired by Dr. Patricia Saul, Deputy Principal of Erdiston College, has prepared a presentation on Barbados' experiences with literacy to be shared at the upcoming Annual Conference in Florida later this month.  The Committee was ably assisted by the Media Resource Department of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development.

The Barbados Association of Reading will be giving a preview of the results of their enquiry at 6.00p.m. on Saturday, May 7th, 2011 at Erdiston Teachers' College.

The presentation is open to the general public as well as to members.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

BAR Walks for Literacy

From left: Leandra Wilkinson, Pearson's hardworking agent in Barbados; The BAR Walkers at Independence Square and a little literacy campaigner

Showers of free books descended on the urban districts of Nelson Street, Bayville and Beckles Road as Members of the Barbados Association of Reading marched in support of literacy during their first Barbados Walk for Literacy last week.

The books, donated by Pearson Education, included popular titles from their Caribbean section for junior readers as well as new novels by Caribbean writers. Classic West Indian novels, dictionaries and promotional gifts were also distributed to passers-by.

Earlier in the week, residents of the areas were informed by mail, newspaper and radio advertisements of the event and were eager to receive the popular titles to read with their little ones or to pass on the older children in the household. Some lucky bus passengers waiting for their bus to move off also received books from the walkers as they passed by.

A welcome addition to the Walk was the JOOI club, The Garrison Octagon Debating Club which worked with BAR to complete a JOOI of Reading project. The kids devised their own pro-reading slogans and made colourful placards to carry on the road. "It was great fun!" said Li-Ann and Dario two of the Octagons who gave up their Saturday morning to help distribute the books. Charlene and her friend Leann, members of FilmGarrison, a kids photography club, chronicled the event for their Rights of the Child Project.

A special mention should be made of writer Linda Deane who, in addition to being the featured reader at the finale at the Esplanade, came with three generations of her family to support the project. Iman Beckles, Linda's niece, costumed as Pippi Longstocking and her daughter Izora were among the youngest participants in Walk. They were accompanied by their grandparents, Mr and Mrs Clement Deane. Linda also gave us some useful publicity on her Arts ETC website.

"Next year we hope to have greater participation from youth groups and schools in the area where we are walking." noted BAR Public Relations Officer, Cheryl Williams. She pointed out that promoting literacy was a collaborative community effort and that all members of a community should make it a priority.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Grasping the Branch of Opportunity

One of the joys of affiliation with a large international organisation is the opportunities presented for professional development. The IRA offers its membership a variety of ways to fund research projects and learning opportunities. Members must pay attention to the deadlines and since the IRA website at is so packed with information, it is easy to miss due dates. We are providing a list of awards and grants offered on the site. For more information, you must go to and click on Awards and Grants in the content list on the left. Remember start putting together your application NOW.

1. Grants for Literacy Projects in Countries with Developing Economies

2. Travel Grants for Educators
This grant offers financial support for Educators going to conferences outside their continent.

3. Teacher as Researcher Grant
This grant supports classroom teachers who undertake action research inquiries about literacy and instruction. Grants will be awarded up to US$5,000, although priority will be given to smaller grants (e.g., $1,000 to $2,000) in order to provide support for as many teacher researchers as possible.

4. Ronald W. Mitchell Convention Travel Grant
The Ronald W. Mitchell Convention Travel Grant provides funding to allow teachers of children in grades 1–6 (or equivalent) who might otherwise not have the opportunity to attend an IRA annual convention. Two grants are awarded each year for up to US$1,500 each to support a first-time attendee. Completed applications must be received by November 1.

5. Reading/Literacy Research Fellowship
The Reading/Literacy Research Fellowship of $5,000 is given to a researcher outside the United States or Canada who has evidenced exceptional promise in reading research and deserves encouragement to continue working in the field of reading. Applicants must have received their doctorate or its equivalent within the past 5 years. Applicants must be Association members. Deadline is November 1, 2010. For additional information, contact Research and Professional Development at

6. Paul A. Witty Short Story Award
This award is given to the author of an original short story published for the first time during 2008 in a periodical for children. The award carries a US$1,000 stipend. The short story should serve as a literary standard that encourages young readers to read periodicals. For information, please contact the Executive Office. Application for the Paul A. Witty Short Story Award

7. Nila Banton Smith Research Dissemination Support Grant
The Nila Banton Smith Research Dissemination Support Grant will provide funding of up to US$5,000 to assist any International Reading Association member, including student members, working on a research dissemination activity, (e.g., a literature review, meta-analysis, monograph, or other work) designed to disseminate research to the educational community. Funds may be requested to support various expenses associated with the proposed research dissemination project, including salary support. The project must be completed within one year of the presentation of the award.The submission deadline was January 15, 2010. The updated guidelines will be available August 2010.

8. National Affiliate Conference Grants
Grants up to US$5,000 are available to assist national affiliates in good standing located in the countries the World Bank classifies as “economically developing” at the time of the application. The grant is to support pre-conference planning, actual conferences expenses, and/or post-conference publication and reporting. Applications must be submitted at least 12 months prior to the conference. Deadline for submission is October 1, at least one year prior to the conference date.For additional information, contact the Global Affairs Unit. Application for the National Affiliate Conference Grants

9. Constance McCullough Award
The Constance McCullough Award, which carries a monetary prize of US$5,000, is awarded annually to assist a member of the International Reading Association in the investigation of reading-related problems and to encourage international professional development activities that are carried out in countries outside North America. This award represents a specific means for working toward as many as three articulated goals of the Association: advocacy, professional development, and emerging global issues. Proposals must be postmarked by October 1 and received at Association Headquarters by October 10.

10. Elva Knight Research Grant
The Elva Knight Research Grant provides up to US$10,000 for research in reading and literacy. Contingent upon available funds in any given year, as many as four grants may be awarded. Projects should be completed within 2 years and may be carried out using any research method or approach so long as the focus of the project is on research in reading or literacy. Activities such as developing new programs or instructional materials are not eligible for funding except to the extent that these activities are necessary procedures for the conduct of the research.

11. Gertrude Whipple Professional Development Grant
The Gertrude Whipple Professional Development Grant, which carries a monetary prize of up to US$5,000, is awarded from time to time to assist a member with the planning and creation of professional development projects, with the production of high quality materials, with the marketing and scheduling of meetings and workshops, and with the logistic support for conducting them. Award decisions, based on the quality of proposals and on the timeliness of the topic, are made as soon as the appropriate designated committee reviews proposals and recommends funding to the Association Board of Directors. For additional information, contact the Executive Division.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Free Read

In an economic downturn with grocery bills gouging the family purse, buying books gets shoved way down the priority line. Where do dedicated bibliophiles get their books? Where can you find a ‘free read’?

  • Join the library
    It sounds simple, but many people don’t think of the library when hunting for books. The Barbados Public Library has a good selection of novels, magazines and reference materials. If you don’t see your favourite book, tell the librarian. They will put it on their acquisitions list because chances are if you like it, someone else will too.

  • Swap Books
    I’m a book hoarder but even I have books I am willing to part with. Do you have my favourite authors? Let’s exchange. It’s that simple. Organize a book exchange at your church, service club or sports group. It does not cost a cent.

  • Write the book yourself
    When I was a school girl, we used to write our own Mills and Boon romances in an exercise book and pass it round to all our friends. Success was measured by how dog-eared the book was. A spruce and neat book with no food stains or thumb prints meant it was a failure. So give it a go; write down those stories that Gran Gran used to tell. Read them to your kids. An even better idea is to encourage your kids to write their own stories for family entertainment. Get friendly with your desktop publishing programme and “publish” the stories for a wider audience.

  • Encourage your local coffee/tea shop to become a ‘bookcrossing zone’
    BookCrossing means leaving your book in a public place for a stranger to take and read. According to, the official website which claims to have nearly 900,000 members, “ BookCrossing is earth-friendly, and gives you a way to share your books, clear your shelves, and conserve precious resources at the same time. … Leave it on a park bench, a coffee shop, at a hotel on vacation. Share it with a friend or tuck it onto a bookshelf at the gym -- anywhere it might find a new reader! "

  • Surf the net
    Don’t knock it! The internet has been given a bad rap when it comes to reading. It is in fact the world’s largest library with vast resources of reading material to suit every taste. The copyright of many classic novels and plays has lapsed and these works of literary art can be found online for free. Let’s not forget the new genres thrown up by the web – blogging for example. Reading a blog on your favourite subject is often an interactive experience since most blogs allow you to comment on what you have read.

So far we have read a good deal and not spent any money. Reading is a recession proof investment in leisure and life.