Those little free libraries


Do you love books? If you answer, yes, then I know that you would appreciate the little free libraries that are carefully placed close to sidewalks in many cities where you live or where you visit. I just learned that there is indeed a Little Free Library Organization and although I am uncertain of its origin, I accept the comment by Danny Lewis writing on the website, All the little free libraries seem to have as their mantra “take a book, leave a book,” and I like that, because this concept allows the reader to contribute without having to construct his/her own library.

If you are interested in contributing to this community of readers and lovers of books, you may want to set up your own little free library, providing you do your research and determine that this is something that would be acceptable for you to do in your neighborhood. Visit the website at and learn how to start.

Danny Lewis writing, ‘Build Your Own Library at the First-Ever Little Library Festival’ on stated that, ‘The Little Free Library organization began when a resident of Hudson, Wisconsin, named Todd Bol built a little model of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books, and installed it in his front yard as a tribute to his late mother in 2009.’ (See link below).

The following are some benefits of little free libraries.

  1. As a reader, you are able to contribute in this ‘community book exchange’ without paying a joining fee.
  2. Little free libraries bring neighbors together around a similar interest – reading. You may even successfully strike up a conversation with a stranger.
  3. Little free libraries come in many shapes and sizes, thus allowing the owners or ‘stewards’ to be creative.
  4. Children are encouraged to read and contribute books from their collections, thus enhancing their reading, communication and comprehension skills.

I am enjoying these libraries. Whenever I am uncertain that I may pass that place another time, I stop, browse, and read a few chapters, without borrowing a book. One thing I am sure about, and it is, whenever I am planning a trip, I will pack a few books so that I may contribute to the stock of books in these free libraries. My dear reader, I invite you to do the same.

Talk soon…..Claire Spence
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When grandparents are supportive……


“I used to think I was too old to fall in love again. Then I became a grandma.”[1]

After the birth of my first grandchild, my world changed. I volunteered to assist my son and daughter-in-law during the afternoons, so I could see my grandson every week day. I started reading to him at six weeks. I was excited, and I convinced myself that my grandson was happy to see me. As he grew older, I looked forward to spending more time with him especially on those occasions when his parents wanted to spend evenings together. After his sister was born, we spent even more time setting up camps in the living room and reading in the Reading Corner.

Grandparents want to be supportive, but sometimes they misunderstand their roles. In this post, I will share some suggestions for supporting children and grandchildren without being overbearing.

There are many courses on parenting. Has anyone thought about writing a training course on grand parenting? Do you think that grandparents should have any problem in getting this grand parenting thing right? Perhaps! But, what if grandparents got parenting wrong? Then perhaps they may mess up grand parenting as well.

Some of my friends are baby boomers and are presently experiencing the joys of grand parenting. In fact, some of us wished we could have had the grandchildren first. You see, we can give grandchildren love, pamper them, spoil them ‘a little’ and then return home with a good conscience.

I believe that:

  • grandparents do mean well;
  • grandparents have some material and financial resources that they want to share with their loved ones; and
  • grandparents need to understand and to be understood;

I also believe that:

  • grandparents need to admit that sometimes they get the grandparent’s role very wrong;
  • grandparents need to give their children and grandchildren some space – no smothering – no overbearing attitude;
  • grandparents need to be observant; and
  • grandparents should know when they have overstayed their welcome.

Whatever side you come down on, grandparents are very important to families. They have lots of experience, enthusiasm, time and resources. Grandparents are necessary to help to grow and nurture well-rounded, well-adjusted grandchildren. Grandparents know folklores. Grandparents give piggyback rides. If you are a Jamaican grandmother reading this post, are you the one to tell your grandchildren Anansi stories and Miss Lou’s (Louise Bennett)[2] poems? Maybe you are. So here are a few suggestions:

  1. Help your grandchildren connect with the past by telling stories and answering questions.
  2. Offer your grandchildren practical suggestions about life.
  3. Offer to help with babysitting. You will benefit emotionally and psychologically.
  4. Spend time with your grandchildren so that they learn to love and appreciate old people.
  5. Teach your grandchildren some skills. These could be skills such as those related to gardening, knitting, embroidery, crochet, pottery, sewing and small-scale woodwork.

For my readers who would like to read some more, please see a link from below.

Talk soon….. Claire Spence


[2] Louise Bennett is a Jamaican poet, writer, actress and folklorist who wrote her songs and poems in Jamaican Patois or Creole.


Redefining the ‘Absentee Parent’


Why am I writing this blog post? I am writing this post because I realize that many roles played by parents in the lives of their children are being diminished by the influence of their busy lifestyles and by the influence of social media. Selected roles played by parents are: teacher, friend, confidant, playmate, disciplinarian, caregiver and comforter. I realize that an absentee parent may be challenged to play several of the roles I just mentioned.

OOPs!! I got it wrong again!! I used to believe that when parents are absent, they are not physically in the same place as their children. However, I know that parents are not as ‘present’ for their kids even when they are physically available because of the influence of social media. I therefore needed help as I tried to redefine the term ‘absentee parent’.

So…. I went in search of a definition. In the article ‘Absentee parents: Why would some neglect their own blood’, by Donah Mbabazi and Dennis Agaba (July 10, 2015, The New Times, Rwanda), the following is written:

‘Experts describe an absentee parent as a parent, who either wanders in and out of the child’s life providing a disruptive, inconsistent presence, or one who was an active part of their child’s life before abruptly ceasing contact or a parent who has never been involved in the life of their child.’

I like the above description of an absentee parent. However, if the flip side is to be considered as the definition of a parent who is present, then I must admit that there are many parents who are physically present who are neglecting their children. These parents are constantly on social media sites; constantly speaking with friends on their telephones; often continuing office work at home; and often studying or completing their assignments for their advanced degrees. So, these parents are at home. Are they absentee parents? No, they aren’t. Yes, they are. How do you answer?

I needed a new definition for ‘absentee parent’. I needed to expand the definition above to include those parents who are physically present but who are continuing to neglect their children due to the negative effect of social media associated with too much phone/or computer use.

Parents – when your social media engagement starts affecting effective parenting, you need to stop and do some introspection! If your child asks you to pay him/her some attention because you are too busy texting or checking Facebook and Instagram, you need to do some introspection!

What happens when a parent continues to reduce his/her interactions with his/her child? Your child will miss out on valuable conversations. You, the parent, will miss out on several of your child’s developmental milestones. Children like to tell stories. Without conversations, they are unable to tell their stories. Encourage conversations by telling your stories.

Parents – do not diminish the influence you should have on your children. When you are at home, put down that phone. Spend time with you children. When you are out at dinner with the family do not place the phone on the table. Leave it in your pockets and pocketbooks. You will never regret this. Happy trying…..

P.s., for those who want to read a scholarly document on the topic, I found one at the link below.

Talk soon……..

Claire Spence











Suddenly…..What is wrong with our boys?


Suddenly, I got cold feet just when I thought I had enough information to write my newest blog post on male marginalization.

I wanted to write about ‘male marginalization’ so that I could further tease out my thoughts regarding the reasons why boys underperform when compared to girls in the Jamaican education system. I had seen enough to know that boys are not being marginalized. I had seen that boys ‘over performed’ when compared with girls. That was especially true whenever boys were given the same opportunities as girls and whenever teachers addressed their learning styles in the classrooms.

Suddenly…. I am questioning my beliefs. I believed some of what I read. However, I have seen enough to put aside some of what I believed. I believed that children, especially boys would not be able to do well academically, socially and emotionally if they had little or no father influence during their formative years. I believed that such a lack, contributed to their being marginalized.

I am familiar with the writings of Professor Barry Chevannes, Professor Errol Miller, and Professor Hyacinth Evans, all erudite professors who served at the University of the West Indies. Like Professor Barry Chevannes, I do not believe that Jamaican males are being marginalized.

Professor Barry Chevannes, in the 1999 Grace Kennedy Foundation Lecture entitled ‘What we sow and what we reap – Problems in the cultivation of male Identity in Jamaica’ said that males are not being marginalized. He wrote, ‘ARE MALES BEING MARGINALIZED? Certainly not, if the main factor being considered is power. Despite the increasing percentages of women at the University of the West Indies, it is the men who are elected to the seat of student power. At community level, whether the issue is dons or youth club leaders, there is no marginalization of males. And as far as the churches are concerned, women’s over-representation in the membership and ministering groups, but under -representation in the leadership echelons is well-documented (Austin-Broos 1997; Toulis 1996). The marginalization discourse always ignores these facts.’

Professor Errol Miller’s Marginalization of the Black Jamaican Male (1986) discussed the feminization of the teaching profession in Jamaica, and he placed some blame for marginalization of males on the effects of the retentions of slavery and colonialism. He further discussed the feminizing of the teaching profession and its negative effects on boys.

Professor Hyacinth Evans in her study of ‘Gender Differences in Participation, Opportunities to Learn and Achievement in Education in Jamaica’, found that although boys and girls entered Grade I with similar abilities, fewer boys were chosen to write the Grade Six Achievement Test. Evans explained that teachers “had a lower expectation for boys than girls, and through their discourse, displayed gender bias which in the overwhelming majority of cases favoured girls” (Evans 1998:8). I worked alongside Professor Evans and appreciate her scholarly excellence. On one of the education projects I worked on, she advised that boys showed greater responsiveness to “activity-based methods and to those that require some problem solving.”

I thought about the 1957 book My Mother who Fathered Me, by Edith Clark. In this book, Clark discussed the complex dynamics of marriage and family life in three different communities in Jamaica.  The title of the book gives the impression that single mothers can carry out the duties and responsibilities of an absentee father. Sometimes single mothers are blamed for boys/male marginalization.

Finally, in Under-achieving Caribbean boys Marginalisation or gender privileging? by Mark Figueroa. Mark wrote the following:

‘In considering the changing relationship between gender socialisation and school experience it must be noted that the position that boys find themselves in relates to the historic male gender privilege. In the home, boys are less well prepared for school because of the freedom they have to roam the streets, the lower levels of responsibility and self-control that are required of them. They get fewer chores that give them an opportunity to learn the process skills that are required for schooling. In school, the harsh treatment they receive relates to the notion of males being stronger, in need of less protection and required to fend for themselves.’

Suddenly, I can re-think my position. I see more of the light. There are many reasons why Jamaican boys under perform when compared with girls. As a mother of two sons and a grand mother of a grandson, I have a parental task to ensure that the boys I influence cultivate a high sense of responsibility. I must ensure that they learn the skills to become responsible adults; that they are able to contribute in a meaningful way to their children, their families and their countries. If you are a male reading this blog post, be resolved to change the narrative that men are marginalized. Occupy your space, show up and contribute. If you are a parent/grand parent, go ahead and contribute positively to influence the boys/men in your life.

Talk soon…………….

Claire Spence


Making Home More Learner-Friendly

Pad With Pens on Table

Making Home More Learner-Friendly

What is ‘Learner-Friendly’? I thought I coined that term. Not really. Let me turn to Google.

The UNESCO toolkit 1: Learning-Friendly Environment (ILFE) states that ‘A “learning-friendly” environment is “child-friendly” and “teacher-friendly.” It stresses the importance of students and teachers learning together as a learning community. It places children at the centre of learning and encourages their active participation in learning. It also fulfils our needs and interests as teachers, so that we want to, and are capable of, giving children the best education possible.’ Thanks to Google. Thanks to UNICEF!!

Making the home learner-friendly therefore means parents and children, learning together at home. This approach places the child in active participation in a learning environment at home. It means that at home, parents can create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning.

Sometimes, I visit homes where children and adults live, and the first place I try to identify is a space where a child could sit to read a book, do some art and craft activity and complete some homework.

‘Where is that place’, I ask. There is no such place. The common response is likely to be that the house is too small. No, it is not! It is never too small! The truth is that most adults do not believe that creating such a space is worthwhile. So, they do not create the space, but creating this space is important for learning. School age children need a ‘learner-friendly’ space at home. They crave this space. They crave this haven that will encourage their creativity. I created such a space in my son’s home for my grandchildren. We call it ‘Reading Corner’. My two-year-old granddaughter pulls me into reading corner on every visit to her home.

Parents!! Here are seven steps to creating your learner-friendly space in your small home. No more excuses.

  1. Decide on the space to be called the ‘learner-friendly’ space in your home.
  2. Purchase a folding table (preferably oblong-shaped that you can push under your bed when not in use).
  3. Decorate the wall closest to this space using photos/pictures from old magazines. If your child is in Kindergarten to Grade 2, create a WORD WALL. Let the child post the words (s)he needs to learn on that wall. I did that for my six-year-old grandson, and it was magic. He posted the words. He learned the words. And guess what, his two-year-old sister helped to post the words.
  4. Do not use permanent glue or tape. Use post-it and tape that is easily removed because you need to be changing those photos/pictures frequently. that is the exciting and fun part of this activity.
  5. Get a bright light for this space. Children should not have to strain their little eyes to read.
  6. Decorate an old plastic container and use this to hold pencils, pens, paint brushes, erasers, pencil sharpeners and other writing implements.
  7. Find a small box and cut open the top. Decorate the exterior and use it to hold blank/scrap paper. This will be useful when your child is completing homework and needs some loose paper to scratch, doodle and just simply on which to write ideas.

So… have the tools for the learner-friendly space. Set it up every day. Let your child use it. Dismantle it, if you must, before retiring to sleep at night.

Happy learning!!   I invite you to share your ideas on this topic.

Talk soon.

Claire Spence



Chronological Age vs. Developmental Age

I found this article easy to read and easy to understand. That is what I try to achieve in my blog posts. Many parents do not want a lot of fluff. Many parents do not want  a lot of information about theories. Most parents want common-sense recommendations from people who love children and who have an interest in seeing families thrive. Congratulations Kate!!


written by Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

Having a blog on WordPress is so nice in that I got a nice little report for the end of 2012 letting me know which of my posts has gotten the most attention, etc. By far the most popular post was this one! So, in the spirit of sharing and refreshing for the New Year, I thought I would update and repost this blog, since it was one of my earlier ones and may have been missed by some of the folks who are newer to my blog. I keep my comments open and would love to hear if people are getting what they are looking for from this post even if it has been a while since I originally posted. Enjoy!

Chronological age vs. Developmental Age

When figuring out how to best meet the needs of our children, it is important to understand their…

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My Child’s Chronological Age Differs From The Developmental Age

My child’s chronological age differs from the developmental age

Act your age! You need to grow up! Have you ever said any of those remarks to a child? Have you said them too often to the same child? Think….has the situation changed? Did you feel regret? says. ‘A child’s developmental age will indicate where a child is emotionally, physically and intellectually on this path of development, as compared to typical behaviors and characteristics of that age.’

Back to the questions. I can answer all the questions above. I can recall two instances, and because of my interventions, the situations changed. I successfully helped two parents to seek help and have their children tested. Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to interact with several children whose chronological ages differed from their developmental ages. On a few occasions, I would kindly ask whether the parent is interested in having the child tested. Of course, on each occasion, I recognized the sensitive nature of the situation and I hoped that the receiver understood that I was not being inquisitive. You see, in my culture, we prefer that people mind their own business. But as an educator, it cannot be that you see something and do nothing.

From my observations I have found that often whenever a child’s chronological age differs from the developmental age, the parent is likely to deny that this is so.

I wrote in an earlier comment that my blog posts will be simple, and easy to understand. I want them to be relatable, so I may use a definition, but I will not spend time on theories. I invite readers who are knowledgeable about the topics to share their academic writings and theories in the comment section.

Parents who believe that they may not understand their children’s developmental age – need not worry. There is help!! You may be confused because sometimes the same children do exceptionally well and at another time they act younger than you expect for their chronological ages. Do not panic!!

What should parents know?    Selected factors affecting delay in development:

  • Sudden death of a parent;
  • Neglect/abuse at an early age;
  • Developmental disability;
  • Major change in family structure such as divorce/separation;
  • Disruptive migration; and
  • A history of trauma or neglect.

What may parents observe?    Parents may observe the following:

  • Child is slow to complete tasks at school;
  • Child is easy prey for bullies at school because he/she has low self-esteem;
  • Child has no desire to embrace excellence;
  • Child’s behavior is often characterized by several of the following: rude, disobedient, temper tantrums, loud and boisterous and raucous outbursts.

What may parents do?     Parents may do the following:

  • Help find your child’s passion. Encourage conversations about this passion.
  • Encourage creativity. Give your child the necessary resources.
  • Supervise creativity and exploration. If your child likes to take pieces of toys apart and reassembles them, supervise this exercise if you think that the task may pose some danger to the child.
  • Encourage your child to self-express. If the child likes visual arts, then take him/her to art exhibitions.
  • Create opportunities so that your child may interact with children of his/her chronological age.

In preparing to write this post I read Kate Oliver’s article on her blog, ‘help4yourfamily’, entitled, ‘Chronological Age vs. Development Age.’ I will seek permission to share it later.

I invite you to share your ideas on this topic. Talk soon.

Claire Spence