There is a serious shortage of local culturally relevant reading materials for children in many countries of the Commonwealth. In schools, teachers are often unable to use literature to develop their pupils’ imaginations and capacity for critical thinking since the available books are few, of questionable quality and in non-indigenous languages.
We work with authors, illustrators, teachers and educationalists across the Commonwealth to improve children’s access to high quality, culturally relevant literacy materials and expand their use in schools.
In 2013 presentations on the importance of high quality, culturally relevant literature for children were made at the following events:
- International Board on Books for Young People Annual General Meeting (Sydney, Australia)
- International Council of Philosophical Inquiry with Children Conference (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
- International Research Society in Children’s Literature 21st Biennial Congress (University of Maastricht, the Netherlands)
- University of Cape Coast, Ghana teachers forum
- University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa literature faculty seminar
Publications are in English to improve competency in the key language of education, tourism, government and business in the Commonwealth.
A River Of Stories
In 2011, to celebrate our 125th anniversary, we published an anthology of stories and poems – A River of Stories: Tales and Poems from Across the Commonwealth. This collection, compiled by children’s literature scholar Dr Alice Curry and illustrated by award-winning children’s illustrator Jan Pieńkowski, showcased the vibrant storytelling traditions of fifty-four countries, from myths and legends to modern short stories and verse.
The anniversary volume is now included in a four-volume set of anthologies, each containing a story or poem from each of the fifty-three countries of the Commonwealth based on the key elements that sustain our planet: earth, air, fire and water. Through the stories, poems and illustrations, pupils are invited to explore the imaginations and aspirations of others from across the Commonwealth, to engage with unfamiliar representations of the world (both social and natural) and to consider some of the challenging issues that face our planet and its people.Find out more
A River of Stories Educational Resource
To accompany the books we have developed a comprehensive education resource that encourages pupils to read and respond to the texts. The activities have been designed to demonstrate how the texts can be read, listened to, and viewed for many purposes; and how connections can be made between the different texts as well as from the texts to pupils’ lives and experiences.
The resource includes:
- an overview for teachers explaining the components of the resource
- themed activities that explore key concepts and cultural perspectives
- literacy activities for comprehension
- readers’ theatre activity for students to share a poem or story with others
- audio recordings of a selection of texts
- video of contributors talking about their work
Teaching Caribbean Poetry
In 2013 Routledge published Teaching Caribbean Poetry based on the course jointly devised by the Universities of Cambridge and the West Indies and edited by Professor Beverley Bryan and Professor Morag Styles. The course has been taught in some form in Antigua, Barbados, Cambridge (UK), Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, London (UK), St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago.
Give the Ball to the Poet
Give the Ball to the Poet is an anthology of Caribbean poetry aimed primarily at 11- to 16-year-olds, with an emphasis on the music of Caribbean poetry as it is spoken. Published in time for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, the anthology includes poetry on sporting themes, including a tribute to Usain Bolt by Mervyn Morris. The language ranges from Creole to Standard English and the anthology contains a useful glossary for readers less familiar with varieties of Caribbean language. The anthology is edited by Dr Georgie Horrell and Professor Morag Styles of the University of Cambridge, UK, and Dr Aisha Spencer of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.