How it went Down! Book Summer 2018.

Our most anticipated event finally held on the 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th of August 2018. Every day was packed with a new learning experience. It was time well spent as our facilitators did a fantastic job in treating each topic with precision and clarity. The first day began with an eye check by Classic Optical Visions and we also had the CEO of Classy Optical Visions, Dr Onyinye Edi give us a soul stirring talk on how reading helped her overcome depression and self esteem issues. The CEO of Purple Shelves delivered a beautiful talk on how we can overcome challenges we face when reading. Believe me, the teens had a lot of questions to ask. It further built on the truth that people are facing serious challenges in reading and need help. 

The next day was a build up as Donald Tombia, a creative writer, storyteller, writer for the ongoing Africa Magic series, Ajoche, came to handle our Writing Factory session and dwelt on how we can build characters in our stories. It wasn’t all talk because there was a practical writing session where we had to pen down what we learnt during the teaching. Well, the best was given a gift. The gift was the Daily Trust Most Anticipated Book of the year 2018, Omo. We also watched a movie, ‘Homeless to Harvard’ and stirred ourselves up to defy the odds to reach our desired goals.

Well you would think that was all but no it wasn’t. We had a day for Book Shopping. We visited Book City Ventures and Bible Wonderland in Surulere where we got great books at tremendous prices.  More than the shopping itself, we got to bond among ourselves and have fun. Thank you Book City Ventures for hosting us and giving us a wonderful experience.

The final day was a cap of all activities and loaded with great fun. We learnt strategic reading and the skills needed for reading. We also got to discuss the chosen book for the summer Kemi’s Journal by Abidemi Sanusi. It was enlightening to hear one another’s views. We also launched our Teens Book Club too, got our certificates, took pictures and had refreshments. In all, it was a great time. If you want to be a part of our book club please fill this form and register.

We want to thank parents, sponsors and all who made it a success. God used you in ways you can’t imagine. Thank you very much. Next year will be better! Watch Out.

Omo: The Story of Many Girls.

It’s been a long time we had a book review and it is interesting to note that the book I want to explore today is Daily Trust Most Anticipated Book of 2018. Omo by Alexander Ochogwu could not have been released at a better time than now because its topicalities reflects the modern tragedies of the girl child in Nigeria and Africa at large. Omo is a story of a young girl that encounters one misfortune to another and details how tragic it can be for young girls who struggle to survive and stay afloat economic storms.

The book opens up with describing the environment Omo grows up in. If you have lived in Lagos or live in Lagos, most of the scenarios painted will be very familiar to you. The illiteracy, poverty and filth that characterizes neighbourhoods contribute to Evelyn (Omo’s mother) sending Omo off to be a housegirl and that unfortunate decision puts her in the hands of a corrupt politician who attempts to rape her. He fails and pins a robbery charge on her that leads to her incarceration. More troubling is that Omo is just fifteen with so much potential that she was nominated to represent her school at a science competition but eventually could not.

Omo’s fate is changed again when she is married off to a man in the North to be his third wife. Can you imagine that her bail was her bride price? She refuses his sexual demands and kills him by mistake. At this point the story continues to build and Omo moves from one danger to another. Her Boko Haram capture leading to her being trafficked to Italy for prostitution are pointers to how the fate of this young innocent girl moves constantly from bad to worse.

Strikingly, the author portrays Omo as strong (I guess she owes that to the tough neighbourhood she grew up in). She faces her challenges headlong and somehow survives death traps such as insurgencies, sea mishaps as she crosses into Libya and even a near murder attempt in Italy. She becomes a prostitute and through her tragedies meets a young man who falls in love with her.

Now, the book has a good story. It makes you more aware of the level of poverty that rages in homes and the fact that so many dysfunctional families are part of the problems in the country as they raise children who become the thorns in society’s flesh. For example, Adamu is Omo’s half brother who is an accomplice to Kunle’s death (Omo’s husband). Old Soja, Omo’s father is known only to drink himself to stupor and lives in the past where he was once in the military.  He neglects his home leaving Evelyn to provide for the home.

You would enjoy this book but and probably make up your mind to be a part of the solution. While reading, I could not but compare this book with Amma Darko’s Faceless. Both books bother on the same issues especially with the immediate need by society to look after the interest of the Girl Child. Amma Darko’s Fofo and Alexander Ochogwu’s Omo, are girls that are forced to grow up into adulthood while they were yet to fully explore their innocence. Fofo lives on the street and survives near rape attempt by Poison just like Omo also.

I was excited about these characters because both authors portray women as strong even in the midst of victimization and prosecution. Fofo encounters Kabira who is a woman that helps to uncover the mystery behind Fofo’s sister’s death and becomes a strong voice for women through the NGO she works with. However, this great story Omo is not without its flaws.

I think the author tried to say too much that he was telling than showing. I would have loved to understand how Omo’s mind worked in the midst of her troubles. The story had too many ‘suddenlys’ in that while I was trying to grapple with one event in the story, something else happens. Omo is in Lagos, suddenly she in the the North, suddenly she is in Libya, suddenly she is in Italy and suddenly she is in Lagos again. I wouldn’t say I saw much when it came to character development. There was more of circumstantial change/plot change than there was of  character evolvement.

Also, the author might have tried to say too many things or chronicle most of the problems of the girl child that adequate attention was not put into allowing each event bloom or grow. The author’s military experience is well reflected as he tried to show how insurgencies are being combated. It was interesting to read but at some point I got lost because I am a novice in that field.

In it all, Omo deserves an applause because it shows the reality of our society and the need for all hands to be on deck in tackling these issues. It is a call for private and public organisations to partner and advocate for a change of attitude and perception towards the Girl Child.  It is also reliving that this book was written by a male author. Thank you Flight Lieutenant Alexander Ochogwu for reminding us of our responsibility to the Girl Child. There is hope!

 

BOOK SUMMER 2018!

It is another time for us to enjoy a wonderful atmosphere where books will be discussed in the most interesting way you can ever think of. The Book Summer programme is an initiative of Treasured Thoughts Academy to make the young adults see the importance of reading. Last Year was enlightening and educative and those who came can attest that it wasn’t a waste of time.

This year we will be having more events lined up which include Free eye exam for all participants, Book Shopping, Books Unleashed, Writing Factory, Book Debate, Launch of the Treasured Teens Book Club and Movie. Yep! All these and more are coming your way. Let us give you a hint of what to expect.

The Writing Factory will be an intensive training on creative writing. Our guest facilitator is a screenplay writer, a published author and respected blogger. After the session, each participant would be asked to write a 300 word short story which will be published on our website and of course the writer would get a gift. The winner also gets to be a guest blogger on Treasured Thoughts Academy’s website too!

The Book Debate will be a hot session of trading ideas and building knowledge. It would be centered on the chosen book for the Summer. You will be amazed at the issues we will be thrashing out during this session. Ok. We re no more giving out our secrets. It shall be revealed when you come and participate.

You can fill the form online https://drive.google.com/open?id=1vBqOD3vXdc1r6OMWAWKRJjtUUzlbb5Ot1FluHhszQz8 and sign up immediately to secure your seat. A seat is N3,000 and can be paid to this account 0008153971, Access Bank, Onwah Onome.  Filling the form does not guarantee a seat until payment is made. Once payment has been made, you will get an SMS confirming the payment.

It will hold on the 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th of August at Upper Room Baptist Church Extension Hall; 2a, Davies Street, off Demunrin Street, Alapere, Ketu, Lagos by 9am-12pm.

It is our desire that everyone will have a great time and so it is first pay, first get the seat.  We should also tell you that SEATS ARE LIMITED. Take advantage of this opportunity and be a part. Tell everyone you can and get this great opportunity to be better in reading and writing.

Where I’d Rather be than School- Emmanuel Igobah

The TTA Readers’ Club is currently reading the biography of Obafemi Awolowo and while reading about this celebrated nationalist, we took time to examine his childhood and how life treated him as a young man so we could glean from him. One of the things that we noticed was that at some point, Obafemi Awolowo didn’t like school because of some things he wasn’t comfortable with.

So I asked the kids, Is there anywhere you would rather be than school? I got very interesting responses. So I asked them to write and I decided to publish this by Emmanuel Igobah (10 years old)- A very interesting boy, I must add. However, this made me think about a lot. One of which is, how can our schools be run effectively that they are not an everyday nightmare for kids? Trust me, I also know students  can be lazy but it doesn’t mean we can’t critically look at how schools can be fun places for teaching and learning. So here is Emmanuel’s write up which is hardly edited.

Emmanuel

There are places you can be rather than school but where I would rather be than school is home where we have constant light and I can go anywhere I want. I can play games and play with friends. I want to be home rather than school because school is boring, the punishments they give, the way they flog students and breaks are too short (like all the three breaks are in one hour).

At home there won’t be any flogging, any punishments and compulsory reading of books.  Most of all, the number of assignments they give us in a day are many. During Midterm breaks we have sixteen assignments which is all the subjects we do in school. Also, the stress one has to do in order to do the assignments is so much. If we are asked to draw  and what we are asked to draw is not in our note or textbook, we have to go to the internet and check for it. That’s why I’d rather be home having fun, going to the museum, theatre, etc. But this can’t happen because without education, you can’t be anything in life.

Emmanuel echoed most of what most of the kids said during readers’ club meeting and I took time to address the issues with them. I was glad Emmanuel concluded the way he did in his write up because he understood the value of education which is one of the cardinal things that Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo stood for. We concluded that Obafemi Awolowo didn’t understand much as at the time he refused to go to school but he later put in every effort to ensure he got the best education.

We also took note of how blessed we are to go to school without the stress of paying our way through by ourselves and the need to appreciate parents who do all it takes to ensure we get the best of education. We spoke again of the value of reading and how it can change our lives and guess what, they are eager to read about another Legend. They told me they wanted to read about Nnamdi Azikiwe. I was so glad and excited that they are seeing the need to value their education and that they acknowledged that they had learnt so much from Obafemi Awolowo.

This is why we do what we do at Treasured Thoughts Academy. It is not just reading but we teach reading to change the lives of kids, get them to have better perspectives to matters and erase wrong beliefs in their hearts. We instill morals and improve on the kids cognitive and analytical skills. You would be amazed at how these kids perceive the characters in books. Guess what? It is fun learning too. Don’t be shocked when I tell you that these kids see themselves in these characters and point out strengths and weaknesses. But hey, that’s what you get from reading.

The Dreams of Youths and the Nightmares of Reality: A Reading of Chinyere Chukwudi-Okeh’s “From the Crevices of Corps Hearts”.

The beautiful thing about art is in its ability to explore every facet of life and present them in the most appealing way. This can be said of Chinyere Chukwudi-Okeh’s book From the Crevices of Corps Hearts.  I personally have not read many books that talk about the National Youth Service experience the way this author is able to bring out stories about these experiences so well that people can relate to.

The Book is a collection of short stories, each carrying in it various meanings and many messages.  The first story for me is the one with less twists and plots but is an apt summary of the experiences of corps members who are stepping out of their comfort zone for the first time. The opening paragraph unfolds this as Zainab takes her first step into the real world:

“We little cherished our sheltered lives at the University, and wanted as much from life as it demanded of us. Before admission we had craved to be enclosed within these academic walls; now we yearned to wander free-the walls had suddenly become an obstruction. We could hardly wait to be garbed in Khaki and addressed with such monikers as” Corper Shun”…” (P.3).

Chinyere Okeh, Author of “From Crevices of Corps Hearts”

This encapsulates the desire of youths for freedom to be many things; to be recognized, to be seen and to be heard. The first story “Burdens and Bundles of Dreams” narrated by Zainab speaks of her entrance into a new world and its strangeness. It wasn’t much of a pleasant welcome as she felt the weight of her dreams crushed by the reality of filth, disorganisation and ugliness that characterized the environment she had to compulsorily enrol in as ‘prisoner’. “The only image that came to mind as we checked into the camp was that of prisoners on a queue, submitting their personal effects and sharp objects while being allocated to their cells…” (P.6).

Zainab like many others went in to serve her nation with so many strong feelings. “Amidst strong feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and a deep-seated passion to serve my nation, I carried my burdens and bundles, and set out on the much-awaited epic journey of national proportion.” (P.4). While some others like Ejiro and Ukali in the story “Mami Courage” went into this strange world with huge egos and full confidence (mostly derived from heavy alcohol consumption) that it would be just a walk in the park only to discover that nothing good really lasts long, at least by the standard of the Nigerian economy. Ejiro’s dream fell apart like the way he fell from the bike with a borrowed fake London suit on his way to get a job he thought would be a break from his harsh reality- joblessness.

For a character like Paulinus’ Baby in the story “Forests of Faeces and Chemistry”, Youth Service was a medium to explore sexuality, search deep into the recesses of her innermost desires and free herself from the shackles of the one who loved her but didn’t know how to express it. His constant show of love opened her up to hate and resentment. Youth Service was a means of finding meaning in the hands of mysterious strangers like Akwa-Ibom boy. The dream for an appealing romance ended in three weeks with her worst nightmare, Paulinus becoming what she wanted most. Three weeks of sweet eye-opening sex caused her to see what true love meant. It was not in sex. It was in loyalty.

Chinyere Chukwudi- Okeh brings out the inner conflicts of corps members; fears, dreams, hopes and weaves beautiful stories from them. Although, she spent a lot of energy trying to explain what she means rather than just allowing the reader unravel the meanings for himself/herself. For a first book, she deserves an applause for telling stories people easily forget. After all, it is just a one year exercise. However, she is able to show how this one year can make or mar the lives of many youths.

The book can also be seen as a clarion call for the government to step up its game in addressing the concerns of youth corps members. The awful state of the camps and terrible treatment of corps members by officials should be addressed. Unfortunately, this year for many corps members opened up with so many dreams but their reality is far from what they have ever imagined. Chukwudi-Okeh puts it succinctly in the first chapter of the book.

“As the days drew by, anxiety mounted upon uncertainty and made us wonder where our places of primary assignment would be. We all dreamt of good jobs and the corporate life. Every corps member desired to be well-posted but life is full of surprises and ironies. Not all graduates would find work in the oil industry, the banks… some would teach in villages, others would work without salary while others would be turned into errand boys and girls” (P.10).

A bit of organisation…

Terry was constantly unable to finish any activity she started. She would pick up her laptop and start something and just won’t finish it. This was causing her to lag behind in achieving her goals and this was worrisome. She had to seek counsel from her friend. Anna was one she could rely on. She called Anna one morning to tell her of her woes. “Anna, I just can’t get anything done on time or finish a task. It has become so bad that my company has placed me on probation.” She let out a cry of desperation.

Anna listened to her friend and tried to calm her down. “Terry, you will need to get organised. Just a look at your house and it shows how disorganised you can be. You should learn to have a schedule and ensure you stick with it.” Anna was being serious and Terry knew it. “Get your apartment cleaned!” Anna was her friend and had her best interest at heart. “I better get to it then.” Terry said with a smile.

So dear booklover, you can’t seem to concentrate on a book or you can’t finish one? It is as though your reading is quite problematic and quite an ordeal. I have been there. I used to have my books all scattered around that as soon as I picked one up, I was seeing another on the floor or my bedside that intrigued me and I would drop what I was reading previously. Reading just went in circles without me achieving anything.

You can overcome this by learning to organise your books. Organising your books helps you organise your reading and also helps you come up with a system for reading. You can start by categorizing your shelf. A shelf space can be for autobiographies, business books, fiction, motivational books etc. You can decide to go through each shelf space by picking a book from each shelf space for every month/week depending on your speed.

Write down all the books you have in your possession. Make sure you keep records of all your books and all those who borrow from you. In recording your books, be consistent and diligent about it. Details of your books should be recorded such as the year you got the book, the author’s name, the publisher, book condition etc. You will be amazed when all these come in handy. It would also be good to have a reader’s log where you record the books you have read. This helps you keep track of your reading progress.

The bottomline is that an organised library, helps organise your reading and helps make it more productive. You must do all within you to ensure that your library gets good care after all, they are your treasures.

The Deficient School.

Sidney Sheldon, a popular writer said “Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.” I would not have captured this better. It is quite sad that this important building or section in a school structure is conveniently removed or unplanned for.

While some do have libraries, it is as empty as empty can be. It has become a place where students sit around idle or the school turns it to another storage space. This is quite sad and disheartening to say the least. I attribute this to a lot of factors like; lack of qualified personnels managing schools,  lack of funds and most importantly, reading is no longer put as priority in schools as the goal is just to get the kids to pass exams and leave.  

Every school must create an environment that prioritizes reading. Every school must take it as a responsibility to breed reading students. A school without a library is incomplete and largely deficient. Click To TweetEvery School has the responsibility to ensure that students fall in love with reading. I cannot deny the fact that there are factors that seem largely too difficult to surmount but I also strongly believe that when there is a will, there is always a way. 

The lackadaisical attitude by teachers, parents and school owners contribute to this failing in our school system. There is the move towards the E-library where books are available on online platforms. While I am a firm supporter in technological advancements, I am very positive that in Nigeria, many are still grappling with how to use these technologies and how to fund its development.

If the funds are available for E-Libraries, by all means, it should be pushed and developed. However, I am concerned about the child who does not have access to these technologies at home and for some reason can’t finish reading a book he started in school because he has no smart device. This is where the hard cover and touchable books come in. He can borrow from the library and return after use. The child can read outside school and that is the goal. Get the child to read beyond the four walls of school whether on a phone or on a ‘hand-held’ book. We can’t push back the traditional library just yet.

At Treasured Thoughts, we are committed to helping you breed  reading students that transcend school boundaries. If you need help with your school library, we will be glad to help. Contact us: academy@onomeonwah.org or fill the contact form below. Lets nourish the minds of your students.

The Dying Art of Storytelling.

Terry Tempest Williams said “Storytelling is the oldest form of education.” Well, for those who were born in the 40’s, 50’s to the 80’s and even during the pre-colonial era, had the opportunity to listen to parents, grandparents and elders tell them stories about famous legends and folktales. It was a means of passing down traditions and teaching morals. It was a way to relax from a stressful day and also a way communities and families bonded.

What does this have to do with reading? Shockingly, a lot! Storytelling is telling a story without the help of printed pages. However, with the development of books, people can actually read aloud from the book and imitate the actions and voices of characters therefore making the story more engaging. Storytelling is a unique way of stimulating the child’s imagination and that is key to training a child to be a good reader.

In reading, imagination is key to aiding understanding. When a child is listening to a story, he builds up the story in his mind following closely every word, sound and action. The child knows that if he misses out by not focusing on the story, he might miss a vital part of the story; therefore, causing him to struggle to fill in the gap. The need for this art to be revived cannot be overemphasised. Developing a strong listener is key to developing a strong reader. Click To Tweet Storytelling helps the child focus and pay attention to details which if carried into reading, the child will grow in leaps and bounds intellectually.

Furthermore, storytelling wets the appetite of the child to go in search of more stories. Where of course will he get the stories to feed that growing appetite? Your guess is as good as mine. BOOKS! Reading more stimulates the brain more.

Storytelling is a good way to bond with the kids. Storytelling also helps the child understand change of events and feel the emotions that go with it. A child can understand various emotions and it can be a good way to bring the child to understand that life is never static and always changes. There are so many vital lessons that children can learn when stories are told to them.

My concern is that the art of storytelling is dying. This is of course for a myriad of reasons. One of which, no teacher/tutor/parent seems to have the “time”. Another is that many reading tutors do not know how to tell a story. It is an art but it can be learnt. Slow and steady but consistently the art can be learned. First, the teacher has to put himself or herself in the place of the character. Laugh when the character laughs, cry if the character cries etc.

Voice range and pitch is key also. The teacher must learn to use her voice productively. Try practicing constantly with your voice. Drink lots of water but more importantly it comes with practice. I know you might say that our grandparents never had to try too hard, but I am sure they did not automatically become great storytellers in one day. With constant practice, you can be a great storyteller and you can awaken a deep desire in the children you work with to be great listeners and readers.

 

The Infertile Father: A Reading of Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me.

I kept hearing a lot about this book Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo so much so that I just had to get the book. The book did not disappoint my expectations because it is beautifully written. It focuses on two characters, Akin and Yejide who got married and are full of love until it became difficult to have children. The story is written in first person narrative style to capture the characters thoughts and perspectives most especially intense feelings that arise between them as they face societal pressures and family pressures to have children.

Yejide is an accomplished hairstylist and Akin has a very good job but all of that seem inconsequential because there are no children in the house. Family pressure pushes Akin to marry another wife, Funmi. However, Yejide stays in the house and puts up with Funmi’s sarcastic tones and attitude. As the story progresses, Yejide gets pregnant but the bummer is the fact that the father of the child (and subsequently children) is Akin’s younger brother, Dotun. Shocking?

The twist is so good that Akin narrates that he actually asked Dotun to sleep with his wife because he could not father children. Talk about secrets! Well, I am not going to spill all there is in this book because I think you should get your copy.  The book will leave you gasping and like I did, shout at some point. So much drama, intrigues and tears too. Each page you turn has something beautiful written especially as the language navigates between English and Yoruba and captures the cultures well.

Ayobami Adebayo skillfully tells the story of most African women who suffer in the hands of society because they are unable to bear children. Sadly, no one ever thinks that the man has the problem. The woman is even conditioned not to think that the man might just be the problem. Yejide runs from prayer houses to Babalawos just so she can conceive. Since Akin was the only man she ever knew intimately, she never sensed that he was impotent. 

The author switches the narrative from the infertility ascribed to women to men. Yejide is a productive woman and fertile if we must add in her career as a hairstylist (she had a growing saloon business) but just a snag in one part of her life tags her as an incomplete woman. She goes through depression, pain and hurt because one area of her life didn’t work. Ayobami Adebayo tows the path of Lola Shoneyin (though in her own unique way) who writes a similar narrative in her book The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Shoneyin also brings this ‘infertile man’ concept in her book.

Ayobami Adebayo

In the end, Yejide’s marriage is broken. The pressure sinks the boat of her marriage even though all her children die except one (Rotimi) because of Sickle Cell disease; the damage to their hearts seem irreparable. Even though Akin is remorseful, it would seem it is too late. Akin raises the children as though they were his but he is ‘infertile’, he is unable to biologically father a child but does a beautiful job in raising Rotimi. Maybe, just maybe… fatherhood is not only determined by one’s biological ability to produce sperm. Thank you Ayobami Adebayo for a beautiful book!

Dear Teacher…

I write to tell you how valued you are and how important you are. The children you teach may not say it enough, your employers may never say it and even the society may not applaud your efforts enough. I write to tell you what you do not often hear. YOU ARE VALUED AND IMPORTANT. The world celebrates you on the 5th of October every year but once a year is not enough to let you know that your place in the society is key to its development. However, we must remind ourselves of some certain things.

Our job is not one to be taken lightly. We are like mini gods to our students because they see us as ‘know-it-all’. Hence, we are favoured by God to have the role of mentoring these kids and putting them in the right paths. Our job is so peculiar that one error may mar a child’s life or one good act may change the child’s life for the better. We can’t afford to be nonchalant. Our job does not neglect minute details. It is a job that is characterized by firmness, discipline and honesty.

We are the ones that help the children see who they really are and what they can be. We are their cheerleaders urging them to push boundaries and overcome the obstacles. We are firm in ensuring that the wrong remains wrong and the right is always right. We do not have time for frivolities because our job caters to lives. We are purposeful, driven and committed. Our job is reported in every home every evening. Hence, our profession is most monitored and supervised. Sometimes, our patience is tested, yet we must be calm and endure it because the prize is far glorious than the pain.

A child who is able to contribute to society positively, think independently and show moral uprightness is our prize and that far outweighs monetary rewards.

Hence, we strive. We work those lesson plans diligently. We take into consideration every student’s needs and plan for every single one of them. We stay up late at night planning classroom activities and extra-curricula activities but we don’t mind.

We are teachers and teaching is not just what we do, it is our life, our commitment, our mandate.

Sincerely yours,

A Committed Teacher.