Category Archives: Sundry reflections

Adoption and Identical Twins. Nurture versus Nature.

I think I have always been interested in ADOPTION, maybe because my best friend at school was adopted.  It interested me to realise that she had to move from one environment to an entirely different one.

Later on D and I adopted two boys, to complete our family of two daughters born to us.

I have also been interested in adopted TWINS, although there are no twins in our family.

identical-twins

I have often recorded programmes about twins. Of special interest are those who were separated at birth. If they are identical twins, so many amazing coincidences and likenesses have been recorded when they meet up. For example, they often call their children by the same names, or have similar jobs. Many even more amazing likenesses have  been recorded in scientific studies of identical twins.   Sometimes it can be after as long as 50 years of growing up in a completely different environment, or maybe even more years of complete separation!

This is especially interesting and raises the interesting question of Nature versus Nurture.

The programme Twin sisters. A World Apart (BBC4 on 4th July 2016 ) sounded a likely programme for me to enjoy. In actual fact, it surpassed my expectations.

twins-a-world-apart

 

This documentary tells the poignant true story of twin sisters from China.  Their names, given by their adoptive parents, are Mia and Alexandra.  They were  found as babies in a cardboard box in 2003 and adopted by two separate sets of parents.  Mia was adopted by parents from Sacramento in the USA and Alexandra by parents from a remote fishing village in Norway.

In the US, Mia is raised a typical all-American girl, with a bustling life filled with violin lessons, girl scouts and soccer, while Alexandra grows up in the quietude of the breathtakingly beautiful but isolated village of Fresvik, Norway, where she happily looks after a pet rat in her family’s shed/workshop.

When they received the OK to adopt an abandoned Chinese baby, neither of the adoptive families were told their daughters were twins. However, due to an unavoidable delay of one day for one of the couples, they all met on the same day when they signed official papers to adopt their new daughters.

They should have been signing the papers on separate days and thus they would never have met. What a coincidence!

The couples were each carrying their new baby daughter prior to signing the official papers.   When they saw both girls, they wondered whether the children could be twins because they looked so alike. The Chinese authorities said “no”, but somehow the new parents persisted and managed to arrange a DNA test and the girls were indeed declared to be identical twins.

Both sets of parents understood how important this link is and so far have managed to get the children together for one visit in Norway and they plan to meet up on the next occasion in the United States, at the home of the American family. I believe the girls were about eight years old on the occasion of the visit. They got on beautifully.

Interestingly everybody noticed that the girls often had similar mannerisms, even though they have been brought up in such different environments. The Norwegian little girl is being brought up in the remote Norwegian countryside. She can speak a few words of English. By the time they next meet, she will probably be able to speak quite a bit more. I am not sure whether the American girl was learning a few words of Norwegian, but they have certainly already managed already to communicate and enjoy each other’s company.

I’ll look out for more true-life stories about adopted twins.

 

“We are Family” – One race – Olympics – a Multiracial/Multifaith World

This is not meant to be a political blog. It is written in the main about our personal experiences as a multi-racial family. It is impossible to ignore prejudice in society. However, it is also good to remember when prejudice can be overcome.

Sometimes I think that short accounts of experiences, almost ‘vignettes’ can speak volumes to a person. Today I offer you two.

Vignette 1

 As I write in August 2016, many people around the world have been enjoying watching the achievements of young people at the height of their physical ability, as they take part in the Rio Olympics.

Olympians

I only learned via Facebook about the great significance of the first Olympic medal for a black participant in the Swimming event. I read that in the USA in the 1960s and 1970s it was not possible for black and white swimmers to swim in the same pools. There is an infamous video in existence of a Motel manager in the US as late as 1964 pouring acid into a swimming pool in order to force the black swimmers out of the pool. (An almost unbelievable act.)

An injustice like that is impossible for oppressed people to forget. And therefore how sweet was the gold medal obtained by Simone Manuel this year in the Women’s 100 metre freestyle!  (See the extract below.)

samuel

“Manuel’s win is so significant given the history of swimming and racial segregation in America. Swimming has an ugly past – black people were denied access to pools and pools were not built in black neighbourhoods. Even when swimming pools were made available, swimming was segregated, so that white people went to swim in private pools, and the public pools used by black people fell low down the list of municipal priorities. This history of discrimination has a knock on effect today – meaning parents who never learn to swim do not teach their children to swim. In the US swimming is not on the curriculum like it is in the UK.

“Extract from iNews the Essential Daily Briefing

Vignette 2.

Recently I attended a week-long creative writing event. The participants all got on extremely well. As I understood it, on a previous week, one person was troubled or maybe mentally ill. She went round saying to the others. “You hate me”. She said this to one particular person whose reply was memorable.  Her reply as it was reported to me was:

“I lived for 14 years in Belfast at the height of all the Troubles. I did not hate anyone then and I don’t intend to start now.”

An Interconnected world “For more unites us than divides us” Jo Cox MP. RiP

 

My brother and I were brought up in an international atmosphere. Our parents were keen members of the Esperanto movement.  As readers of this blog may know, Esperanto is an artificial language.  It was used more in the days before English became such an international language. Our parents met Esperantists from around the world before the second World War. This artificial common language enabled them to talk to fellow Esperantists, regardless of anyone’s mother tongue. It included people who were soon to become ‘cut off’ from many others after the War, as their countries disappeared behind the Iron Curtain, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia etc.  I am sure our parents must have thought a lot about their friends, whom they could no longer contact.

As a family we have cousins and family in France, Sweden, Tobago, New Zealand, Australia, California, other parts in the United States and I expect that many families have links with even more countries. Today’s children will often meet children in their schools who have come from a variety of countries and who speak a variety of languages. We live in an interconnected world!

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Learning about other countries. Refugees.

Today we are able to access world news almost round the clock. However, at a time when the world seems a smaller place and when we are becoming more inter-dependent, recently there has been an unpleasant rise of nationalism and suspicion of people who come from other countries. This is very sad, especially as so many people have been forced to flee their own countries.

I don’t know how much modern parents talk to their children about the plight of so many deprived children around the world (or even in our own country).  I do know that schools try to educate the children about life in other countries.  (One of our granddaughters has been so interested in a school project on China. To her delight, this culminated with making a huge papier-mâché model of the Great Wall of China! )

Gt wall of cChina

However, until recently I had only heard of one children’s book for very young children that addressed the question of being a refugee/Asylum Seeker. (“The Silence Seeker” by Ben Morley and Carl Pearce, published by Tamarind Books.)

The Silence Seeker by Ben Morley and Carl Pearce

In my last blog post I added a P.S.

“On 13th June on the Today Programme I heard about a German book for children about the life of a refugee child. Apparently it is becoming a best seller. I have tried to find out its name……….. If any reader can tell me the title I’d be most grateful.”

 Well. My husband Donald came up with the title, shortly followed by one or two other friends.

 

Unfortunately as yet I cannot provide a direct link, but if you copy the URL below, it should bring up the English translation.

<https://www.onilo.de/boardstories/abspielseite/?tx_bsproducts_player%5Bpresentation%5D=1181>

 

Then a friend Jo posted the Radio 4 link – see below

“How do you explain the refugee crisis to children?

A new children’s book tells the tale of a family who flee the dangers of the Syrian war, make a perilous journey across the Mediterranean, and arrive in Germany in search for a better life.

Famous German author Kirsten Boei told presenter Sarah Montague how she managed to get children to understand the lives of refugees in Der Spiegel’s number one bestseller,” Bestimmt wird alles gut” (Everything will be alright).”

 

Kirsten Boel. Bestimmt wird alles gut(Image: children. Credit: AFP)       Release date:         9 June 2016 ”

I must try and get a copy of this book.

ADOPTION TODAY – Help/information/support

My last blog ended with this sentence “I have heard that there is more help for adopted and looked-after children nowadays.”

This is good news for people involved in adoption today.

Sam had been with us for one whole year in 1973 before we ever read or heard anything helpful about bringing up a black child as white parents. This was when our Adoption Agency sent us an article from an organisation called “The Open Door Society” in Canada . As I wrote in one of my earliest blogs:

The main thrust that came through to us was that ‘Love is not enough…  Society will see your children as black…  …… The parents have a responsibility to instil in their child, through the media of literature, art and music, a pride and understanding of his racial heritage.” 

 Apart from the only two multiracial families that we met in the North East of England, our support came mainly from the organisation called Harmony that we encountered when we moved to Leicester in the Midlands.

Harmony-badge

Harmony was an organisation for multi-racial families whether by adoption, fostering or through mixed-race marriages. It was at Harmony gatherings in the 1980s that we learned a lot about skin care and hair care, It was a supportive forum where we could share information  for example about books and toys that showed children who looked like our children.

Aurora 006

 

 

 

 

I have written about this before. So what is new nowadays?

  • More books featuring the diversity of our population (even if not yet enough. . .)
  • Recruitment of people from ethnic minorities in most areas of Social Work
  • Adoption websites, discussion forums, blogs, shared Tweets  #Adoption.  THESE CAN BE DISCOVERED VIA GOOGLING “ADOPTION SUPPORT”
  • Greater awareness in schools about the special situation of “looked after” children
  • Training and information for families. See the Pac-UK site:  Here below is information about help that is offered in schools in England.

http://www.pac-uk.org/   “From April 2014, schools in England can receive the Pupil Premium for children adopted from care, or who left care under a Special Guardianship Order on or after 30 December 2005. Schools can also claim the Pupil Premium for children who left care under a Residence Order on or after 14 October 1991.

The Pupil Premium is to help schools raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap with their peers.  It is paid to schools in respect of disadvantaged pupils in Reception to Year 11. The Government has extended the coverage of the Pupil Premium in recognition of the traumatic experiences many adopted children have endured in their early lives and a realisation that their needs do not change overnight”.

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I wish this kind of help had been available for Jah in the 1980s. (sigh)

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+ A Helpful booklet published in 2014

In April 2014 a group of multi-racial families in Cornwall has published an extremely helpful booklet in partnership with Barnardo’s.

“Children Visible by Colour in Cornwall: Suggestions for parents and carers raising BME (black and minority ethnic) and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.”

Kowetha doc

Kowetha is a pioneering community group of parents and carers living in the West of Cornwall who are raising BME and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.

The Kowetha Community group has written a handbook to support other families of diverse racial background, which is also valuable for teachers and practitioners. The handbook has been supported by Barnardo’s and considers the following:

  • How a child’s racial heritage influences their childhood experiences in Cornwall.
  • The importance of moving beyond ‘colour blindness’ and positively educating children in Cornish schools about racial diversity.
  • How schools and agencies might recognise and support the unique social pressures experienced by children who are visible by colour, thus meeting their duties under Ofsted.

The advice, information and shared experiences are applicable for all multi-racial families wherever they live . I can heartily recommend it.

“Looked-after children” – Yesterday and Today. Illustrations in literature.

During 2015 I turned on the radio and heard the following startling statement. I jotted it down

“Every 20 minutes a child enters the care system. There are currently 63,000 children in Care.” That figure surprised me.

Somewhere else I jotted down “Famous adoptees” that I knew of. I wrote:

  • Steve Jobs ( of Apple fame),
  • David Dickinson (Antiques programmes and “Who do you think you Are?”),
  • Michael Gove (Government Minister),
  • Jackie Kay (author and poet), Lemn Sissay (poet – former Writer in Residence at the South Bank).

Of course there are many more famous adoptees.

A few years ago I visited the Foundling Museum in London – the foundation that Thomas Coram set up in 18th Century with backing and support from Handel and Hogarth and other famous artists who were concerned about the fate of the many extremely poor and abandoned children.

Foundling Museum

I had seen the cabinet holding the tokens that mothers left when they left their children – The following matter-of-fact explanation taken from Wikipedia does not attempt to convey how moving it is to see these tiny, simple tokens.

EXTRACT from WIKIPEDIA: “Foundling tokens (coins, a button, jewellery, a poem) were given by mothers leaving their babies, allowing the Foundling Hospital to match a mother with her child should she ever come back to claim it. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of the children never saw their mothers again and their tokens are still in the care of the museum.”

Illustration – “Drawing on Childhood”

In February 2016 a friend drew my attention to an exhibition entitled “Drawing on Childhood”. It was an exhibition that featured the work of major illustrators from the eighteenth century to the present day, who have created powerful images of characters in fiction who are orphaned, adopted, fostered or found.

The exhibition was most interesting. It showed a variety of illustrations, sometimes by different illustrators of famous books, such as ‘Peter Pan’. For example Mabel Lucy Atwell’s illustrations were quite different in tone from earlier artists.

Here is the original book cover.

170px-Peter_Pan_1915_cover

And here is Mabel Lucy Atwell’s illustration of the scene where Wendy reads to the Lost Boys.

Mabel-Lucie-Atwell-from-Peter-Pan-and-Wendy-by-JM-Barrie-1921-c-©-Lucie-Attwell-Ltd-www.mabellucieatwell.com_1-e1449485484439-848x400

 

 

 

 

 

I was interested to discover that in 2015 a graphic novel version of Peter Pan by Stref was published. Here is his picture of the grand house the Darlings lived in. The children can just be seen flying high above the house.

Stref-from-JM-Barries-Peter-Pan-The-Graphic-Novel-2015-published-by-BC-Books-400x400

I imagine that most readers of this blog will be able to think of many stories about orphans. In fact, where would one begin?! Here are some authors and their illustrators that I think of first:

Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and many other characters, illustrated by many different artists – George Cruikshank being one of the most well-known)

Madeline

Ludwig Bertelmans who wrote and illustrated the Madeline stories (1939).

In all these cases, the artists/illustrators added greatly to the story.

Later there were many stories by Noel Streatfeild featuring motherless children. A book I always enjoyed is “Heidi” by Johanna Spiri, illustrated here by Janet Johnston.

Heidi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the more modern era one can think of. Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”… “Matilda” illustrated by Quentin Blake)

CHARLIE

Harry Potter! By J.K. Rowling.

“Tracy Beaker” and “Hettie Feather” by Jacqueline Wilson, who is famously illustrated by Nick Sharratt.

Tracy Beaker

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

 

After the exhibition I had a cup of tea with my friend in the Museum’s café. I rather wish it had been there when our boys were young. The walls are covered with clearly printed names of people who were either adopted or fostered – ‘Looked After’. Their achievements are varied and impressive and often realised against great odds. It was most interesting and enlightening. I think if I were an adopted person I would have liked sitting there and I think I would have just soaked up the general atmosphere and the effect of all those names.

There is far more interest and I have heard that there is more help for adopted and looked-after children nowadays. I am glad about that.

Our boys – Born in London. Back to London in 1983.

When we moved to London, I was overwhelmed by all the amazing things one could see and do in the capital. In earlier days I thought that I would not like to live there, but by 1983 I was truly ready to settle in (and hopefully never to move away.) We were both brought up in Surrey, but up until then, in our married life we had lived in SIX different homes, including one in Western Malaysia.

As I have probably said elsewhere, the moment Sam arrived in London, he felt at ease. I think he relaxed because he saw so many people of different colours, including people who looked just like him. Within three days, he had worked out which bus to take. Actually his school was within walking distance and after the first day he wanted to walk there alone.

D. often travelled abroad for his new post for the church denomination and therefore I had to do quite a lot of exploration myself. Jah was still young, so he had to come along. We saw many wonderful things.

I very much doubt whether Jah will remember two cheerful sculptures that we discovered at Somerset House, but they are joyful artistic expressions that I will never forget. The sculptor/artist was Keith Haring. Sadly he died very young, as a victim of the Aids epidemic that was rampant in the 1980s.

Keith Haring

Haring Somerset Ho

 

 

 

 

I know that we took both boys to Science and Natural History Museums, although I am pretty sure we had to pay in those days. It is much better now that children and families are able to enjoy all the national treasures free of charge and can therefore return again and again – as indeed people do, judging by the huge queues, especially at Half Term.

Entrance_to_Natural_History_Museum,_Cromwell_Road,_London_SW7_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1034304

The Natural History Museum, South Kensington

We went to the Tower of London. Being boys they spent a long time staring at various coats of armour. They also enjoyed the humorous commentary by the guides.

North Italian armour

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to see the Lord Mayor’s Show and visited the Museum of London where we were able to gaze at this magnificent carriage.

Lord Mayor's carriage

Once, when we had walked through the whole length of the Burlington Arcade, we saw a notice that said “It is forbidden to whistle or sing in the Arcade”. Jah had walked right through the Arcade singing a merry song before we reached the notice. When he saw the notice he was very worried. He kept looking over his shoulder, but calmed down when no “policeman” came to arrest him!

I remember also that Jah had been very impressed by the severity of a notice that threatened all sorts of dire punishments if anybody dared to chain their bicycle to railings in “posh” sreets.

After-school clubs were only just beginning to start when we moved to London, but since we were living in the Borough of Camden, Jah was entitled to attend two weeks’ summer play scheme at Coram’s fields. This was a really good experience.

I’m not sure whether we took the boys to the Notting Hill Carnival, but Sam went every year with his friends as he grew older. (The picture below was taken at Carnival in Tobago.)

06 Tob. more Rox. carnivalThe inventiveness of costumes that are made around the world is so impressive.

 

 

 

 

These are just a few memories of our early days in London – the city that both Sam and Jah were born in.

Since I have covered most of Sam’s and Jah’s childhood, from now on I’ll write blogposts once a month – usually on the first Monday of the month. There is plenty more to say on the theme of Adoption Reflections and a Multiracial family. . .

A diverse society. Girls, dolls, skin tone and self-image.

“Girls and self-image” may not appear to be relevant for the upbringing of two boys from a Caribbean background, but this is certainly relevant for their daughters – the next generation.

We have four granddaughters. So far, only one of them has shown much interest in dolls. On  29th January 2016, I read that Mattel,  the manufacturers and designers of Barbie dolls have announced that they are going to produce dolls of different body shapes. And I say “About Time Too!”

The fact that our granddaughters have not taken much interest in dolls only shows that all children are different and one cannot pontificate on what they will really like! Children will go their own way. For example, our granddaughter ‘Mia’ has been given quite a few black dolls through the years by her thoughtful aunties, but the dolls usually remain stuffed in a cupboard, whereas, the black and white tiger, the cuddly dog, and all the cuddly animals are highly favoured, played with and loved.

I am glad at least that Mia enjoys the film ‘The Princess and the Frog, which features Tiana a beautiful black girl.

Tiana (1)

However, to return to the matter of DOLLS, I am pleased to hear the news from Mattel. There has been too much pressure on thin body-shapes for far too long.

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I’ll quote from the Guardian (29th January 2016)

 “With her tiny waist, stick thin legs and petite frame, the Barbie doll has been accused of promoting an unhealthy body image for over five decades. But now, in her biggest update since 1959, it’s out with the skeletal frame and thigh gap, and in with the curvy hips and thighs as the company has revealed three new body types for the dolls to reflect a “broader view of beauty”.

 Mattel says it has ‘a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty’.

 Mattel, the creator of the toys, said the new range – which also boasts seven different skin tones – was designed to promote a healthy and realistic body image and would better reflect the diversity of those who play with the dolls.

 Evelyn Mazzocco, senior vice-president and Barbie’s global general manager, said: “We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand – these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them – the variety in body type, skin tones and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them. We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty.”

 The new dolls will also boast 24 new hairstyles, including an afro, curly red hair and even long blue hair, a long way from the bright blonde locks traditionally associated with Barbie.”

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Our youngest granddaughter is only 18 months old. Time will tell whether she will eventually like dolls. At least she should be able to choose one that she likes the look of.

Aurora 006

For any readers who would like to read more about dolls for a multicultural society, here is a useful link.http://mixedracefamilies.blogspot.co.uk/ Search for post dated Sunday June 23rd 2013

 

The beloved “School Journeys” (Holidays). A boost for Jah’s self-esteem

I had a very dear friend who had three children at the same Primary school. She had a good sense of humour and told me that she worked out very carefully the timing of her visits at Parent’s nights. She was often cast down by reports about one of the children, so she made sure she began with his teacher. She always ended with the daughter who was doing extremely well, so that she could go home on a ‘high’.

By the time Jah moved up the comprehensive school, Sam had proceeded to University, so our Parents’ Night visit was solely to learn about Jah’s academic achievements. We cannot talk of ‘going home on a high’ here, but usually this was a bearable experience, except on one occasion when he had definitely not worked hard enough. This was when he was getting older and really needing to be more serious about study.

In my most recent blog post I mentioned a wonderful national scheme – an obligation to help “looked-after” children. A Designated – called ‘virtual’ Teacher is appointed to promote the educational achievement of all adopted and fostered children. Such a teacher will have a work-load of many children around the country and undertakes visits to see how the child is getting on at school. That is exactly what Jah could have benefitted from. Ah Well. At least I can say that I am delighted that such a scheme is now in operation for today’s “looked-after” children. I so wish it had existed in the 1980s. It could make a difference for the whole of a person’s life.

220px-Royal_Opera_House_and_ballerinaOne summer, on the same evening as Jah’s Parents’ Night. I had been given a free ticket to see the ballet at the Royal Opera House. It is the only time I have ever been there. I remember vividly, sitting there watching glorious dancing in an amazing setting, but going round and round in my head were the comments of the school teachers. “Could try harder”. I had to pinch myself to try and sit back and enjoy the ballet and the whole environment and atmosphere of the Royal Opera House. It was not easy.

HOWEVER, on a more positive note, the most significant school-related things to happen during Jah’s teenage years were three magnificent school holidays. These were lovingly referred to as ‘School Journeys’ and Jah’s commitment to these holidays showed that he could certainly apply himself when he wanted to. Of course we paid for the holidays, but he decided that he wanted extra money to spend while away, so he decided to do a paper round to save up extra money.

Big brother Sam had done a paper round for many years. Now Jah had a round of his own. They were both delivering newspapers in a big tower block – not an easy task, especially when the lifts to the top floor were out of action. It amazed us that Jah persisted with the round, that he set his alarm, got out of the house on cold dark mornings and faced the daily challenge. He could clearly do something when he wanted to.

Newspaper delivery

 

 

 

Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The first School Journey was to Greece. He came home more tanned than usual and radiant. That holiday was followed by one the following year to Italy and the third was to Teneriffe.

The holidays were led by a dedicated teacher and some other enthusiastic leaders. Every year the teacher presented each youngster with a postcard at the end of the holiday and on Jah’s he always wrote “Mr Perfect” This is what he wrote on one of his cards:

“Dear Jah

Thanks for coming along. Like last year your behaviour was impeccable. You have shown true consideration and respect for others. You seemed to have enjoyed yourself, singing, dancing, playing games, swimming, partying and going to the disco. I hope all these memories will live with you always. I know these experiences have helped to mould you into the very pleasant, kind, generous person you are. It’s been a pleasure to have you with me. You can come along anytime a trip is planned. Best wishes. G”

A “report” like that did wonders for Jah’s self-esteem. It also lifted our spirits.

1987 Jah reaches secondary school age

I suppose I risk of running out of historical events in writing about the upbringing of Jah and all the family. However, I don’t think I shall run out of reflections and fortunately this blog is entitled “Adoption ReflectionsBringing up a multiracial family”. Our society in 2016 is even more multiracial than in the 1980s so the situation of a multiracial family is still relevant. Therefore let us carry on. Today I am continuing with our story.

We are now in 1987. Strangely not a single child from Jah’s Primary school went on to the school we selected for Sam. However, since Sam was so happy and learning well at his Secondary school, we took it for granted that it would be a good place to send Jah. It had fulfilled its promise of being a good environment for a multiracial society, quite in advance of its time. We did also do the requisite visit to show Jah. He was already motivated to follow his big brother and happily agreed to attend that school.

A few months ago I heard that every school in England has extra money per school year allotted to help “looked-after children” – the current pleasant terminology for adopted or fostered children. (In the year 2014/14 the sum of money was £900 per child) If ONLY Jah had had this help! Sam might not have needed it, but Jah would have benefitted I am quite sure. He had some learning block that we could not understand. It was easier for Sam, as he had come to us more or less a ‘brand new’ baby.

For any reader who has not followed this story, Jah came to us a few weeks before his fourth birthday. So many vital things are learned and absorbed during the very early days of a child’s life. More is known about this today. Jah had obviously missed out on some things, as is the case with many children who move from family to family in their early days.

However, let’s not dwell on the above. We are now just a few weeks before Jah was due to start at the secondary school and a school-related crisis had erupted. Asbestos was discovered in the building. The new entrants had to have lessons in prefabs that were set up on one of the playgrounds. The builders were very busy everywhere. It must have been a nightmare for the staff. I think the children were quite interested, but it must have been a slightly unsettling beginning to their secondary school experience.

construction workImage courtesy of xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After several weeks working in these prefabs, the building works became more intense and the lower school was evacuated to an old school building in the Kings Cross area. It was deemed to be “rough”, so the children could not go out at lunchtime. The gates were shut. The children were very impressed and apprehensive. To them it sounded like being in a prison. In those days, school entrances were not usually guarded.

Today, in 2016 Sam and Jah’s secondary school has electronic passes to enter and exit, but things were more relaxed in the 1980s. (They were so shockingly relaxed, that local residents used to walk their dogs in the school grounds – with the attendant mess. Nowadays the entire site is surrounded by a metal fence – and a good thing too. This avoids dogs’ mess and unwelcome intruders.)person walking dog

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am not sure how much I shall write about Jah’s secondary school experience. As far as I remember, the aspect he enjoyed the most was an out of school activity arranged by a very gifted teacher with one or two other teachers involved –

– namely the beloved “School Journeys”

of which more another day.

Follow-on from a blog post about Children’s books, including some books about different countries around the world.

As I said in the last blog post, Lucy pointed out that I had mis-remembered some of the books our children read when they were young.

However, Anna agreed that I had remembered correctly that she hardly read any stories until the summer after her GCSEs. The first book she read then was “Catcher in the Rye”, by J. D. Salinger and after that there was no turning back for Anna. Today she reads mostly non-fiction, such as biography, History of World War 2 etc. but also a lot of fiction.

FICTION/NON-FICTION?

There is no “rule” that says that a child has to enjoy FICTION. They should be free to read what they enjoy. When we discovered that Anna loved funny poems, riddles and non-fiction, we were able to share our love of words with her in the way that suited her best. (She wasn’t keen on sitting still long enough to hear long stories.)

Currently, Nicola Morgan a very respected author, is what she might call ‘banging the drum’ that non-fiction also has a place alongside imaginative fiction and that it is equally valid. Nicola is a respected author.  She serves on the Children’s Writers’ Committee of the Society of Authors and she speaks with authority.

I know this is not meant to be a literary blog and anyway, many people may not ever have known that there has been prejudice against children concentrating on non-fiction. However, here I hope I can point to some books that might be of interest to people who wish to share with children some information and interest in other countries.

Children's Atlas           Big Book of the World

I believe I have mentioned before Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith’s “The Great Big Book of Families”. I wish that book had been available when we were bringing up our multiracial family. Fortunately we now have grandchildren to buy books for. These are lovely books to share with

them.the-great-big-book-of-familiesfamily reading

 

 

 

 

 

NOW Here is a touch of self-indulgence. A few days ago a friend said that she found one of my long-ago-published stories in a doctor’s waiting room. She was there with her granddaughter. Of course I was both surprised and delighted.

Here below is the cover of another story I wrote long ago. I believe that it still gets borrowed from libraries. Hooray!

Sammy's Xmas

Three cheers for libraries, books, writers and artists.

I end with a few Christmassy illustrations.

Santa             Imagescourtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
globe

Image courtesy of xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 In the New Year I shall carry on with the story of Jah – moving towards the teenage years. . .In the mean time “Happy Christmas” to readers of this blog wherever you are in the world!