Nov. 5, 2003 – Ask well-educated adults what children's literacy means, and chances are they'll say it's about reading.
But it's about writing, too, and from an early age. And that's the focus of the 2nd annual V.I. Kids Count Children's Literature and Literacy Conference, which will take place on Sunday afternoon and evening at the Sports and Fitness Center on the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas campus.
"Becoming a good writer is an important and basic skill that children must master to become good students and life-long learners," a UVI release states. Because "teaching young children to write may be challenging to parents and caregivers," this year's Kids Count conference is focusing on that aspect of literacy.
The conference, a UVI service learning project, is open to the public. It provides a forum "for parents, teachers, librarians and everyone to come together to talk and learn," Patricia Harkins-Pierre, conference director and a member of the UVI English faculty, says.
In addition to sharing good children's literature and learning more about childhood literacy, the conference is aimed at "fostering networking among the stakeholders in the education of children in the Virgin Islands," the release states.
Sen. Louis Hill is the keynote speaker. The agenda includes half-hour sessions on "User-friendly Writing Centers for Children," "The Reading/Writing Connection," "Children as Non-fiction Writers," "Children as Fiction Writers," "Challenged Children as Writers" and "Children as Poets."
Another component is a drama workshop that will feature presentations by Doris Bedminster, director of Busy Bees Child Development Center; Martha Joseph of the V.I. Writing Project; Wanda Evans of the V.I. University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities; and Collette Potter of Nisky Moravian School.
Local culture bearers including Glenn "Kwabena" Davis, Gilbert Sprauve, Basil Bassue and Gene Emmanuel will be doing some "Storytelling by Flashlight." And St. Thomas children's author Phillis Gershator and artist/author Hilda Joyce will be on hand to sign copies of their books and discuss their work.
In anticipation of this year's conference, St. Thomas pupils in grades 1-3 were invited to write on the topic of "Who is Anansi's Wife?" Anansi, the wily spider, is a familiar figure of Caribbean fables derived from African folklore. But about his spouse, Aso, little has been known — until now. Prize winners will be announced on Sunday, and all of the youngsters who put their thoughts into writing will be recognized.
The first V.I. Kids Count conference came about last year as the culmination of a service learning project Harkins-Pierre developed for her students at UVI. "Service learning" refers to the practice of incorporating community service into the academic curriculum so that students learn about the subject matter while serving the community.
"I wanted all of my students involved in something that would help the wider community," Harkins-Pierre says. This year, all five of her fall semester classes are contributing to the conference, with the 17 students in her Early Childhood Literacy course serving as the planning committee and Lydia Foy Brown-Frett as co-director.
The conference runs from 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday. Registration is $5 through Friday and $10 at the door. To pre-register, send an e-mail to Harkins-Pierre with your name, contact information and school if applicable; or call her at 693-1357.
Participants are encouraged to take to the conference a new or good-as-new children's book to be donated to the Ralph Paiewonsky Library on the UVI St. Thomas campus for its children's literature collection.
The conference is supported by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, which since 2000 has issued annual V.I. Kids Count statistical reports on the economic and social status of the territory's children. Also providing support for this year's conference are Follett International, The Friends of the St. Thomas Libraries, Dockside Bookshop, the V.I. Writing Project and the UVI Bookstore.
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