THIS COULD be the year that education soars in TT. Even if schools are closed because of covid19, we could see students improve their comprehension, analytical and writing skills like never before if we all push reading as the foundation of education.
Government will have to do its part and remove the tax on books that bookstores now pay. Parents will have to read to their children consistently and teachers will need to make reading the focus of their classes.
Elementary teachers need to read to children every day. Parents and teachers must choose a variety of fiction and nonfiction books that teach values and academic skills within the stories. Picture books are small, and they’re a quick read, but they can be reread to spark several lessons over a month. Secondary students need to be reading at least two books a month. But that is a story for another day.
The hardest part of developing a reading programme is knowing where to start. For young elementary readers, I favour books that help to develop listening skills so I often choose books where children can participate in the story. For instance, I would read a book about the different sounds animals make, then let students choose an animal from the story, listen for when that animal is introduced and make the appropriate sound when their animal appears in the story. This allowed me to read the book twice to students so that I could reinforce comprehension and develop listening skills.
Here’s my list for children three to five years old:
1. The Pigeon Loves Things that Go! by Mo Willems – Children love this author who presents simple stories about discovering the world around us.
2. The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson – A gripping story, suspense and a theme of friendship make this a perfect read as a humpback whale and snail travel together to discover the world. Neither one ever left home before. They experience the excitement, but also learn that venturing out on your own requires support and a sense of responsibility.
3. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Pam Adams – This is a picture book that features a classic nursery rhyme, which introduces young students to poetry.
4. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt – Students love this amazing age-appropriate lesson on fairness and prejudice. Children can choose to be a colour in the story to participate in the reading of the book. Many lessons can come out of this book. Children can prepare a speech defending their colour’s importance or describe their colour. They can be given two of the same pictures to colour to see how different colours change tone and mood.
5. Islandborn by Junot Diaz – In this Caribbean book, Lola draws a picture of her island for a school assignment.
6. Ready, Set...Hatch by Jeunnane Alkins – Children love nonfiction or fiction based on real animals or people. Here is an opportunity for students to learn about turtles. The author also has Alex the Awesome and the Crazy Quest for the Golden Pod, which teaches children about cocoa.
7. Drummer Boy of John John by Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac – This is based on the story of Spree Simon, who is credited with inventing pan. Children love biographies and biographical fiction like this.
8. Lola and the Dancing Ladybugs by Mary Cuffy – Early childhood curriculum programme facilitator, Mary Cuffy has a series of books which address the pre-reading thinking skills children need while making them aware of social situations around them. In this book, Lola needs to learn how to dance to fit in at a party.
9. Crash! Stomp! Roar! Let’s Listen to Dinosaurs by Perragon Books – Dinosaurs can be the best way to lure children into books. This book provides dinosaur sounds and some measurements of dinosaurs, which can help children develop a sense of size and space.
10. Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney – Young children love the catchy rhythm of this story. There’s a performance by Ludacris on You Tube which is a must see. Here’s the link for the Ludacris performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFtHeo7oMSU
11. Frida Kahlo by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara – Vegara’s biography series for young readers features attractive illustrations. This was a favourite series for young readers in my school.
Visit your local bookstores for more Trinidadian and Caribbean picture books and enjoy opening up a whole new world for children dealing with the challenging course of education in these times.