A few days ago, I was at the Trench Town Reading Centre. The heat of summer has worked its way into our very bones, in recent days. The real answer is rain, but our drought has reached a new pain threshold, and many are without water.
So, in Trench Town it was predictably hot – and dusty, from the adjoining space where the boys play football. But the children are happy, because it is summer school (yes, July is the month of award ceremonies and summer schools!)
But did I mention that, this month, the children are all obsessed with penguins? Yes, penguins! The Reading Centre’s tireless co-founder and chief bottle-washer, Roslyn Ellison, did not deliberately choose this theme to make them all feel cooler. But it caught their imagination. They must be dreaming penguins at night… Chinstrap Penguins, Emperor Penguins, Rockhopper Penguins, all those flightless birds that hop, walk, slither and slide across the ice (oh, that delicious, cooling substance!)
I talked to the older children about story-writing. The stories had to include at least one penguin. As we talked about beginnings, middles and ends, characters and settings and what-happens-next, some of the children were already writing. One little girl was writing about herself as a rainbow, she said. Where was the penguin going to fit in? At the end of the rainbow, perhaps? Imaginations soared, as lunchtime approached. I taught them the word “floe.” As in “ice floe.”
Another class of younger children was busy building a penguin colony. When we asked them if their penguins had names, one little girl told me solemnly that her penguin was called “Princess Sophia.” Penguin royalty, there (and perhaps the influence of a television program). A little boy, intriguingly, called his penguin “Unnu.” Now, “unnu” is the word for you (in the plural) in Jamaican patois. Rather Zen, I thought.
I blew kisses to the children and the penguins. Later, Roslyn posted some great photos on the Reading Centre’s Facebook page (Friends of the TrenchTown Reading Centre).
Summer school at the Reading Centre is busy. It’s creative. It’s laughter.
It’s the children.