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Conference Focus is Children's Reading, Writing Skills

Oct. 21, 2004 – The third annual V.I. Early Childhood Literature, Literacy and Languages Conference will be held Nov. 13-14 on the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas campus. It began as a service-learning project for a class taught by humanities professor Dr. Patricia Harkins-Pierre and has grown into a conference for parents, teachers, librarians and caregivers of young children. The conference focuses on developing reading, writing and speaking skills in young children, since children must master those skills to become life-long learners.
"Each year we've had more participation than the year before, and we hope that continues," Harkins-Pierre, who organizes the event with help from the students in her Early Childhood Literacy class, said in a release.
This year's conference is dedicated to the memory of St. Thomas educator and poet Lydia Foy-Brown, the co-director of last year's conference, Harkins-Pierre said.
The conference begins Saturday, Nov. 13, from 6-9 p.m., in the Chase Auditorium (Business Building Room 110). Sen. Louis Hill will be the opening ceremony keynote speaker at 6 p.m. Following his address, Dr. Vincent Cooper, a renowned linguistics scholar and UVI professor, will be given special recognition for his work on Caribbean creole languages. The program will also include Dominican Christian recording artist Glenworth Pierre sharing his music in English and French creole.
Day two of the conference is scheduled for 1-8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 14, in the classrooms of the Business and Education Buildings. Award-winning author Kristina Kessler will open the plenary session at 1 p.m. in the Chase Auditorium. Children's author Phillis Gershator and artist/author Hilda Joyce will be available for book signings and discussion, Harkins-Pierre said.
Forty-five minute break-out sessions on topics that pertain to children's acquisition of language, reading and writing will be held during the rest of the afternoon. These sessions will be presented by professionals such as educator Diana Parker, folklorist and educator Elaine Jacobs, Martha Joseph of the V.I. Writing Project, UVI Reading in the Content Area Coordinator Linda Wymer and teacher Julie Cruz of Wesleyan Academy. Topics include:
-User-friendly Writing Centers for Children.
-The Reading/Writing Connection.
-Children Learning with the Help of Computers.
-Children Learning About Cultural Literacy.
-Children Learning Primary and Secondary Languages.
-Drama Workshop.
-Children as Non-fiction Writers.
-Children as Fiction Writers.
-Challenged Children as Writers.
-Children as Poets.
"Storytelling by Flashlight," a highlight of the conference, will be held on both nights and will feature some of the Virgin Islands' best storytellers, such as Dr. Gilbert Sprauve, Basil Bassue, Gene Emanuel and Harkins-Pierre. Saturday's "Storytelling by Flashlight" will be held from 8-9 p.m. Children accompanied by a responsible adult are welcome at the storytelling sessions.
Sunday's "Storytelling by Flashlight" will be held from 7-8 p.m. At 8 p.m., the first- through sixth-grade winners of the Anansi story contest from St. Thomas and St. John will receive their awards.
In addition to sharing good children's literature and learning more about childhood literacy, the conference's goals are to foster networking among the stakeholders in the education of children in the Virgin Islands and to continue the conference annually. This year Harkins-Pierre was given one of the first Margin of Excellence awards from the UVI Provost's Office to help fund the event, she said.
Pre-registration is $5 and registration at the door is $10. Pre-register by calling 693-1357 or e-mail pharkin@uvi.edu and leave your name, contact information and school (if applicable), by Friday, Nov. 8. Participants are encouraged to bring a new or good-as-new book to be donated to the children's collection at the Ralph Paiewonsky Library on UVI's St. Thomas campus.
The conference is sponsored by UVI, The Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries and Dockside Bookshop. For more information or to become a community or individual sponsor contact Harkins-Pierre at 693-1357 or at pharkin@uvi.edu.

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