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Monday, September 20, 2010

Booklovers walk the talk on October 2

THE Barbados Association of Reading (BAR) is staging a WALK FOR LITERACY on Saturday, October 2. The start time is 7:30 a.m. outside the National Library in Independence Square, Bridgetown, and the walk route takes participants through Nelson Street, Bayville and Beckles Road, ending with breakfast, readings and games on Browne's Beach. The association has come up with the fun idea of inviting walkers to dress as characters from their favourite stories and novels.

ArtsEtc asked Cheryl Williams, BAR’s public relations officer, which fictional character she would dress as, and why? She also shared her views on literacy in Barbados:

ArtsEtc: So, who would you walk as?

Cheryl Williams: I'm thinking of Mary Poppins. I've always loved her, and of course there is always a teacher's fantasy of getting some of your naughtier pupils to behave. Ms Poppins is a nanny, but she sticks around for cool adventures where everyday experiences seem magical.

AE: What are the main objectives of the Literacy Walk on October 2?

CW: As an International Reading Association Caribbean affiliate, we are charged with raising literacy awareness within the community. The Barbados Association of Reading’s Literacy Walk is a community literacy initiative designed to highlight the importance of literacy within urban communities. It aims to mobilize BAR membership, writers, librarians, schools, churches, and community groups in the area to make a public statement on the importance of reading.

AE: The walk route covers areas that have been immortalised in print by some of our Barbadian writers. Will there be readings from such works at strategic points on the day?

CW: Yes, we will do our best to bring out Barbadian writers, particularly those who write for children or who are from the area, such as the immortal Kamau. The readings will be on Browne's Beach.

AE: What other ways would you suggest interested groups (writers, bookstores, teachers, communities, etc.) get involved in an ongoing basis to promote literacy in Barbados?

CW: Try a less traditional approach. Everyone wants to give remedial lessons, but many kids are reminded of the failures of school and go to these reluctantly. But the kid who likes football will probably read a book on Cristiano Ronaldo or one on the finer points of football. My sister who hated to read at school is now a deacon in her church; now in our house we fall over books by TD Jakes and on Christian theology. She will probably never read many of the “classics,” but she reads a great deal!

AE: Tell us briefly a bit more about BAR.

CW: The Barbados Association of Reading is a non-profit, charitable organisation established to promote literacy in Barbados. It is a Caribbean affiliate of the International Reading Association headquartered in the United States. Membership consists of literacy professionals and volunteers who meet monthly for educational sessions and discussions on literacy issues. The organisation also encourages and supports literacy projects in the classroom and community, and provides networking and training opportunities for literacy professionals.

AE: What is your major bugbear about literature in schools?

CW: Most reading is done outside of the English classroom, and a lot of subject teachers refuse to encourage good reading skills. They think it's not their issue.

Also, I am always incensed at what the powers-that-be choose for young people to read. One of my classes was up in arms because it felt that the poems in their poetry books were boring and macabre (my word). To keep their interest, I had to assign them the task of putting together an anthology for kids.

AE: What are you currently reading?

CW: Actually, I am reading several books. I'm relaxing with The Naked Baron, a Victorian bodice ripper. For work, I'm introducing the kids to The Silver Sword and A Kestrel for a Knave.

ArtsEtc encourages everyone to come out and support the Barbados Walk for Literacy on October 2. For more information, visit BAR’s website. – LMD

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