Readings under the Trees was held on Saturday 23rd March 2019 at the Botanic Gardens. The annual event brings together published and upcoming authors and poets in Trinidad and Tobago to share their work with ALTA students, tutors, sponsors, and the general public. Several hundred patrons from diverse backgrounds brought their blankets, refreshments and close friends to enjoy an afternoon of Caribbean literature against the backdrop of tall trees, blue skies, steady breezes, and radiant sunshine.
Janice Ferreira, past tutor and lifelong friend of ALTA, was enthusiastic about the experience, “Thoroughly enjoyed it - wonderful idea. Gives writers a voice, a platform, confidence. And us, the audience, total enjoyment in beautiful, relaxing surroundings lifting us out of the stressful state we are living in.”
Readings under the Trees is more than just a celebration of reading and local literature. It is meant to inspire ALTA students to read not just to function and survive, but to read for pleasure. And the authors who gave up their Saturday afternoon free of charge were certainly inspiring! The span of styles and genres offered something for everyone.
ALTA extends a big, big thank you to the 28 authors who read their work and is pleased that they too enjoyed the experience. Andre Bagoo commented, “Had glorious fun reading new poetry on Saturday for ALTA’s Readings under the Trees event.”
Lylah Persad, who read at the Kid’s Tree, had this to say, “We celebrated our two year anniversary of “Tales from the Forest” with ALTA TT Readings under the Trees. An excellent initiative! It was a pleasure sitting and reading from our books and children had their copies on spot. So cool! Many thanks for including me ALTA!”
Author Amanda McIntyre saw the initiative as a means of encouraging kids and upcoming writers to meet and interact with Caribbean authors who have become legends in their own right and an opportunity for recently published writers to have their work promoted. A commentator on Facebook endorsed this in this message: “It was awesome. I'm sorry my eldest granddaughter was unable to attend though. She loves to write stories and poems. Next year please God, I'll invite students and parents from my school. Kudos!”
‘For the Love of Reading’, an organisation that promotes reading by sharing books in community spaces at no cost, set up a mobile Book Corner, which allowed patrons to take a book home. Once finished reading it, they can either return it to the Book Corner or pass it on. Patrons flocked to the Book Corner which had a wide variety of international bestsellers. “We thought it would be a great idea to share some physical books, as ALTA was sharing the readings from local authors,” stated Aara Cleghorn, co-founder of ‘For the Love of Reading’.
While the readers at all the trees were warmly received and appreciated, the most applauded readers stood under the most populated tree. These were the students of ALTA, who firmly planted their feet on the ground and read with confidence to all present. The students shared their life experiences, in particular the challenges they faced and the empowerment that ALTA continues to provide to them. One listener captured the prevailing view saying “I was really touched by the personal pieces recited by the ALTA students. Hearing their stories, struggles and victories was very inspirational.”
Students generally expressed a feeling of exhilaration after the open-air reading experience - a sense of freedom pervaded amongst those who found the courage to share. It bodes well for ALTA’s continued goal of diminishing the shame factor,
JANUARY FOCUS ON ALTA PROGRAMME PERFORMANCE
ALTA is committed to ongoing training and the Belmont training centre hosted first Youth Lit tutors and then ALTA Coordinators on two Saturdays in January.
The focus for Youth Lit tutors was ‘Understanding our Students’ with each tutor sharing a profile of a challenging student and benefitting from a pooling of ideas to provide insights into the causes of the challenges and how to best meet each student’s needs. Tutors were introduced to more ways to use the CODE Burt award young adult novels with Youth Lit students. We extend our thanks to our Youth Lit partners - NALIS and Kiss Baking Co.
ALTA Class Coordinators worked with the theme “Guiding, Supporting, Reporting”. New procedures were developed to help tutors produce quality evaluations for every ALTA student and enter these on ALTA online student database before the end of the academic year. We ended the day on a fun note with a typical ALTA walk-about activity to share ideas on handling unexpected student responses in an ALTA writing lesson.