Educator Candace Francis goes online to show kids why reading is fun
Janelle De Souza
Learning to read is the first step towards all academics and many careers, but it is also something that could be enjoyed for the worlds and experiences that can be opened up.
With this in mind, educator Candace Francis founded two online entities, Bold Print Bookshop and Desha Academy.
Bold Print was launched in hopes of bringing the joy of reading back to children instead of just focusing on exams.
“Reading was meant to be enjoyed. You can look at the depth of the language, the way words are used, and understand the description of people and things.
A teacher in the primary school system for 20 years, Francis said she has seen the decline in the number of adults encouraging children to read or play stories, or children reading with satisfaction for hours.
“I’ve seen the change in what reading is. A lot of factors have contributed to that, but part of that is that exams have become so competitive now, we tend to just focus on reading for that purpose. Also, until recently, we hadn’t integrated technology into teaching, so kids associated reading in school and technology with fun.
“Also, you would hear parents using reading as a form of punishment. So a child does something wrong and the parent takes away play time or a device and tells the child to go read. After a while, children associate reading with a form of punishment.
As a result, Bold Print Bookshop launched online in 2019. She originally intended to eventually open a physical space, but with the onset of the pandemic she thought it best to leave it online.
Bold Print’s books target children ages 3-12. They include coloring books, story books and educational books, but no textbooks, from international, Caribbean and local authors.
“I try to support local authors because growing up I was mainly exposed to foreign authors. They were one or two (local authors) but most of the time they had to leave the country to become a writer. So I felt as a TT citizen that I or anyone else in the Caribbean couldn’t write because I had never seen it. I had no model.
“So when I opened the bookstore, I realized I needed to expose kids to the works of Caribbean authors so they could probably be inspired by them.”
Local authors featured in the bookstore include Betty Peter, five-year-old Coryn Anaya Clarke, health professional Phillip Simon, environmentalist Katrina Khan-Roberts, Mikkell Khan, Charisse Broome and many more.
In June 2020, she launched the Desha Academy as an extension of the bookstore.
“There were activities I wanted to do but I didn’t want it to be part of the bookstore itself, because it’s more on the education side. The bookstore is where I would have the resources to complete the educational aspect.
Its intention is to promote the TT with videos about its history, culture, folklore, national emblems and more. These resources, as well as some science, math, and English learning resources, are available for free on the academy’s website.
However, to go further, parents must register for access to online lessons, a book club for children aged 9 to 12 and a separate book club where books can be consulted while parents begin discussions on the material.
Prior to covid19, Francis curated exhibits celebrating literacy with the help of former teacher Winifred Assoon. Children and adults performed monologues and duets, there were tales, as well as the reading of poetry and verse.
“I wanted kids and parents to realize that literacy doesn’t have to be boring, just sitting in a classroom reading a story. You might have fun doing it.
During the pandemic, she conducted interviews with various writers, including author Phillip Simon, which gave kids a feel for the writing and publishing processes before allowing kids to ask questions.
She said it helped kids realize that authors are just like them, can have the same experiences, including writers’ block, and that writing isn’t just about exams or even books. . This opened up the idea of careers as writers, including journalism, advertising, communication specialists, and teaching.
Francis is setting up a space on the Desha Academy website about the TT dialect and its various influences, highlighting Hindi, Spanish, French and African words still used today.
She is also working on a curriculum in Spanish, more on social studies and videos in English, and a curriculum based on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).
Francis expressed his enthusiasm for the project and is working on building a team to do everything bit by bit.