Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Feeding young minds

...Fostering a love for reading


READING IS FUN: Julie Morton, owner of Morton Books. Photos: ANISTO ALVES

Mark Fraser

JULIE Morton’s latest venture, Morton Books located on the corner of Middle and Patna Streets in St James is a hop, skip and jump from Long Circular Mall. 

With its grey-coloured walls with bright red accents, the bookstore looks like any other business place from the outside. 

That is, until owner Julie Morton opens the door, then you walk into what can only be described as a charming, delightful little world where young children in particular are encouraged to lose themselves in their imagination—even if it’s just for a short time. 

Maybe it’s the vibrant pop of colours on the walls, the bright lights that give the room a cosy appeal or the smile on Morton’s face, but on stepping into Morton Books, your first impulse might be to reach out and pick up a book.

And if every one of her customers felt that way, then Morton would have more than achieved what she set out to accomplish since opening the bookstore late last year. She did so not only to promote the love of reading among little children but to also show them that reading is fun, reading is great. 

At Morton Books, you would find storybooks with brightly coloured illustrations for the little ones, puzzles, books on great painters written especially for children, colouring books, books specifically designed to help preschoolers learn their alphabet, shapes and how to read and write, handicraft and art and craft supplies for children and adults including paint brushes and acrylic paints.

All items in Morton Books have been hand selected, all the activity books and several of the story books have been written and published right here in Trinidad, including Morton’s very own books. If you’re looking for some special and local artwork with a Caribbean theme that appeals to children, at Morton Books you will find one-of-a-kind beautifully illustrated maps of the Caribbean, which are definite conversation starters and make learning fun and easy.

Julie Morton’s name has been synonymous with helping children, particularly preschoolers, learn to read and write. Long before she became a publisher, writer and chef, Morton was a teacher. One of her very first teaching assignments was at Penal Rock Road. She remembers little children coming into the classroom with a pencil an inch long and nothing else, not even writing paper. It was up to Morton and the other teachers to find pieces of paper for the children to write on. It was then and there in the late 50s that Morton came up with the idea to not only write books for children but to also publish books which would help children ages two and older learn how to read and write, books which children could call their own. Fast-forward to the present day and if you walk into any bookstore and enquire about ‘First books’ by Morton publishers, the store clerks will tell you that it’s one of their more popular sellers. Today Morton encourages parents to purchase a book a week for their children.

“I would like parents to get into the habit of buying books for their children. Parents think in terms of buying clothes, ice cream or food for their children but they don’t have the book habit they don’t say to themselves: ‘My child is five years old, I’m going to buy a book a week for this child even if it means neglecting some other purchase’,” said Morton.

The education of preschoolers is the first step to a well-educated young person, said Morton, who stressed the value of books.

“Some people think that they can’t afford books but they really are not that expensive when you think in terms of buying a bucket of KFC—it’s eaten and it’s gone. But you buy a book and it has value for years, you have the book sitting on the shelf and the child comes back and reads it again and again. If you don’t put books in the hands of a two-year-old they will take longer to read, that’s one of the big reasons why we have children coming out of high school and they don’t know how to read—because they didn’t learn to read when they were little,” said Morton.

“When a child learns to read, his vocabulary starts small then it begins to build and then he has this appetite for books, he goes searching for books, he goes to libraries. A book provides knowledge, it teaches lessons, it provides information and enjoyment. It makes dreamers out of kids. They go off in another world and get lost in their imagination. If they don’t have books when they’re little, they’re at a disadvantage when they get to five, six years old.”

While some parents contend that their child does not like to read, Morton offers this simple solution: find a book in your child’s age group that appeals to him, there are endless options available at bookstores today.

“A child would learn to read and learn to love reading as long as he or she has books,” she said.

Morton said parents whose children have outgrown their books should pass them along to another child or give them to a school to be used in the library.

In addition, Morton encourages parents to get their children interested in painting, drawing or handicraft.

“Apart from reading and writing, children should get involved in something else. Some children could dance—not everyone, some children could play sports, not every child can. But every child could be a painter, an artist. The end result is that hopefully when he gets older, it will guide him into useful careers and he has something to get involved in—he can get his notepad out and create something,” said Morton.

Beginning from next year, Morton Books will be including art classes for beginners in sculpting, pottery and painting, batik and silk dyeing.

\Visit Morton Books today at #1 Middle Street, St James