The Adult Literacy Initiative of Grenada begins classes

i Oct 19th No Comments by

When Hurricane Ivan ravaged Grenada in 2004 it also dismantled ALTA’s programme there which began in 1999. In 2014, ALTA revisited the foundations which had been laid and trained tutors with the intention of restarting the programme in Grenada. Despite low student numbers and funding and venue challenges, classes began.

This year for the second time we were able to train tutors in Grenada via Skype linking up to our Belmont tutor training course. The five newly trained tutors were able to plan and execute student registration in Grenada and began classes for a second year in September. The tutors have launched an organisation called The Adult Literacy Initiative of Grenada (ALIG) which is supported by ALTA. Jill Patterson of ALIG shared some feedback on classes thus far:

ALIG is conducting both Level 1 and 2 classes this term, and we are already off to a great start. Our returning students were eager to resume classes, and have ecstatically shared their reading experiences over the break. They are excited about the new term and seem to have retained the skills learned in Level 1. Our new students were very open about sharing their challenges with reading and have indicated their various reasons for starting literacy classes. Although it has been a bold step for them, they have displayed sheer commitment and desire to completing tasks ahead. We have already established a strong rapport with the new students, and the entire class is building community spirit, as we conduct both classes in the same room. We look forward to what’s ahead and are grateful to be serving the Grenadian community in this way. Thanks to ALTA, we can make this a reality!

Keep up to date with ALIG on Facebook!


ALTA Reading Circle training 2016

i Oct 18th No Comments by

It seemed as though we just couldn’t close the registration list on Saturday 1 October, when 47 reading guides attended the 2016 Reading Circle training at our Belmont office.This was a record number. Guides poured in and enthusiasm was high at the session as they pledged to take the structured reading skills back to their reading rooms.

Reading Circle coordinator, Lilian Ramsaroop gave guides the administrative tour of their role and responsibilities to their students, as well as the relationship that must develop between guides and literacy tutors.

Especially for the new reading guides, ALTA Founder and CEO, Paula Lucie Smith’s explanation of the components of reading as taught in the literacy classroom and their direct links to the structure of the guided reading lessons was explicit. For all guides this made it clear that reading is complicated.

It’s a Funny Game, the factual and humorous book modelled by Lystra Hazarie, ALTA National Coordinator, introduced guides to several of the tools that comprise the guided reading concept that ALTA has been exploring for the past several years with Wallis Wyke.

In turn, guides got the opportunity to be teachers and students using ALTA library sets from different literary genres. Judging from their reactions, the newly trained guides were enthusiastic about having to demo a book. Many of them said that the training was much more interesting than they had imagined.

At the end of the day regional coordinators met with their guides to discuss the start-up challenges and strategies, and library sets were distributed to the 16 active reading circles across the country.

Are all these examinations necessary?

i Oct 18th No Comments by

Article first published in The Northerly titled ‘Testing, Testing 1,2,3 and…?’

Particularly for young children, examinations can be very stressful. So how many do we really need?

In one study in the U.S., an educational researcher set out to examine whether standardized testing for 7-8 year-olds was really necessary. In the state of Arizona, which has such mandatory tests, he asked the Arizona State Department of Instruction and district personnel why this was done, and was told that it was so they could learn which children needed help and which did not. He asked if they could get that information from teachers, but was told that such information would not be “objective,” that teacher ratings were “untrustworthy.”

He decided to personally test that theory by asking the teachers themselves. In a simple study, he asked teachers to rank the students in their classes in terms of how they would do on the state’s No Child Left Behind accountability test.

Of the 36 teachers that participated, reporting on nearly 1000 students, the researcher found that the teachers’ ranking of their students’ performance showed a strong positive correlation with the students’ rank on the state test. In other words, teachers are quite capable of providing the authorities with information about who needs help and who does not in about 10 minutes.

“In many districts, standardized exam results have become the single most important indicator of school performance. As a result, teachers and administrators feel enormous pressure to ensure that test scores consistently rise. Schools narrow and manipulate the curriculum to match the test, while teachers tend to cover only what is likely to be on the next exam. Methods of teaching conform to the multiple- choice format. Education increasingly resembles test prep”

Although these observations relate to the U.S., there is no doubt that a similar situation exists here in T&T. The Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) pressure now combined with the Nationalized Standardized Tests in Standards I and III, filters all the way down to preschool level. It is now common for three-year-olds to be given homework every day, in order to “prepare” them for primary school.

In a widely-read recent article by Dr. David Bratt, entitled “SEA is child abuse!”, he states that “Our curriculum is far too focussed on tests. Thers is no balance in the curriculum. It lacks arts, music and PE and areas of learning that are vital to physical and emotional health and balance in life.” He notes that for young children, play is far more important than rote learning: “Play develops creative thought and expression…Creative thought enhances problem solving. Creative thought, whether adult or child has its roots in play. When young children use their imaginations in play, they learn to be more creative and therefore perform better at school tasks.”

So will we soon see a system which prioritizes play over rote learning? Don’t count on it, so long as the education system in T&T continues to be designed by bureaucrats rather than educators.

This is my Story- ALTA’s 2016 campaign

i Oct 18th No Comments by

Snapshots of our 2016 anti-stigma and student recruitment campaign

Armed with the knowledge that stigma, fear and shame have stopped thousands of non readers around the country from coming to ALTA’s free community classes, we decided to execute a campaign aimed at reducing stigma associated with non readers in Trinidad and Tobago. The campaign entitled ‘My Story’ also doubled as a means of spreading awareness of our recently concluded Student Registration. The campaign was a success as we were able to spread awareness, tackle stigma and register hundreds of new students.

With help from Pepper Advertising and sponsorship from the Citizen Security Programme (CSP), our anti-stigma team planned and executed an integrated marketing communications campaign. Pepper’s expertise is transforming our ideas into media tools, the first of which was a radio ad campaign entitled ‘My Story’ which told stories highlighting the feelings of freedom, usefulness, pride, connectivity and achievement our students feel. In an effort to increase public empathy and understanding, it also examined why people may not have acquired reading and writing skills when they were younger. These ads were broadcast on local radio stations.

We also produced a television commercial with a twist which reached a wide audience when broadcast on TV6 and at Movie Towne and shared on our social media pages. We got many positive comments on our short videos of current and past students telling their stories and encouraging non-readers to come to ALTA.

We are extremely grateful to the many media houses which assisted us with spreading our campaign across the nation, as well as our ALTA Ambassadors who enthusiastically agreed to represent us at outreach events as well as on radio and television interviews.

Heartfelt thanks to:

Advantage Advertising

Bernadette Nathaniel

CL Communications

Garryn Ferdinand

Graphikos TT


Jeanette Williams

Kim Belmonte

Lennox Austin

M’aisha Thomas

Marios Pizzeria Ltd

Merle Carrington

Movie Towne Cinema


Pepper Advertising

Shiva Boys’ Hindu College

Trinity TV


WACK Radio 90.1

Warrenville Regional Complex



ALTA’s newest author

i Oct 18th No Comments by

Judith pictured on the left at the evening of tea and readings

ALTA’s Port of Spain West region has our very own author. ALTA Tutor and Ambassador, Judith Theodore, was recently one of the feature guests at the Paper Based Bookshop’s Evening of Tea and Readings. She was called upon to read an excerpt from her collection of short stories edited by Jeanne Mason and Ian. F. Ali.

An alumna of Wayne Brown’s writing workshops, Judith is also an artist, playwright and actress. She may be remembered for playing the role of Sandra Webb in the T.V. series Westwood Park which ran in 1997.

Judith has been a tutor in her St James community at the St Agnes venue since 2007.

Congratulations to Judith!

ALTA’s Annual Tutor Meeting 2016

i Jun 30th No Comments by

Snapshot of Paula speaking with tutors at the meeting.


For over 20 years, ALTA has continued to thrive thanks to the work of our committed volunteers and the passion of our founder and CEO, Paula Lucie-Smith. This was clearly evident at ALTA’s annual tutors meeting, held on Saturday 25 June where over 100 active and newly trained volunteers came together to chart the way forward into another successful academic year.  Present amidst the volunteers was ALTA’s patron Zalayhar Hassanali and Professor Ian Robertson who gave a presentation on Creole English and the Adult Literacy Student.

Professor Robertson is well known in academia for his research in the field of linguistics. Guyanese by birth, he is the former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the UWI St Augustine Campus and a former lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics. He gave a lengthy but incredibly interesting presentation, which looked at the value of teaching adult learners in Creole English versus Standard English. He also looked at the intricacies of Creole English and gave many entertaining examples of both phonetic and grammar rules which tutors should keep in mind when teaching Trinidadian adults to read and write. He left the audience thinking about the importance of understanding the nature of language – both the language which is being taught, as well as any languages students bring into the classroom – in order to teach effectively.

It was extremely inspiring and promising for ALTA’s future to see so many long standing and new tutors attend a meeting on a Saturday morning – many coming from as far as Point Fortin. The feedback we received during the meeting is testament to the unwavering commitment which our volunteer tutors have to the Association. Undoubtedly, without this dedication ALTA would not be where it is today and so we take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all our volunteers – both past and present.


Closing the curtains on our CSP project

i Jun 15th No Comments by

The Citizen Security Programme (CSP) is an IDB funded initiative run under the auspices of the Ministry of National Security which aims to significantly impact the instance of violent crime in known “hot spots” across Trinidad and Tobago by contracting the expertise of NGOs to deliver impactful programmes targeted to at-risk communities. As ALTA’s engagement with CSP comes to an end, we look back at the process:

  • In 2011, ALTA was invited to submit to, and successfully completed, a process of in-depth analysis of its programmes and processes to determine the feasibility of becoming part of the Citizen Security Programme’s second intake of NGO partners.
  • In June of the following year, after a rigorous proposal writing and project vetting process, ALTA was contracted to build capacity in CSP communities by first training volunteers from within 9 communities via an extended apprenticeship process and second, by supporting the implementation of classes and registration of students ALTA in these communities. This met with moderate success, as only 5 of the 23 CSP trainees went on to fulfill their volunteer contracts and only the Lendore Hindu school class in Enterprise Chaguanas got off the ground and has been successfully maintained.
  • ALTA also underwent an interim phase of community mobilisation/student registration for CSP community residents after Phase I.
  • In March 2015, armed with all of the lessons learnt from Phase I, ALTA embarked upon Phase II of its engagement with CSP, which took the form of continued support of the Lendore class and active CSP-resident tutors and students, but focussed primarily on reducing the stigma that acts to prevent persons getting into literacy class. This was identified as the major barrier to start-up of the proposed classes in the CSP communities and CSP support has enabled ALTA to produce two different Anti-Stigma Campaigns.
  • Being a part of the CSP fold also involves membership in the Civil Society Working Group, which meets to discuss triumphs and challenges and to network and brainstorm on projects. Working Group membership has also afforded ALTA opportunities to increase capacity through training, notably in the areas of monitoring and evaluation and communications. CSP contracted NGOs were also furnished with multi-media equipment including a speaker-system and projector, as well as a laptop, a printer/copier/fax machine and a digital camera, all to assist us in the projects developed under CSP and for those going forward.



ALTA’s Spelling Programme

i Jun 14th No Comments by

Both reading and spelling require you to connect letters to speech sounds and to develop a visual memory of the letters in words. However when you read, you see the letters and have to work out what the word is. You do the reverse when you spell – you know what word you want to write and have to work out the letters.

Thus reading and spelling are different skills. Reading uses the skill of recognition, while spelling requires recall. You can compare it to phone numbers. Spelling is similar to when you try to remember a phone number, where you have to recall each number in its right position. Reading is when you check your phone log and recognise the number you were trying to remember. Since reading and spelling require different skills, you can be a good reader but a poor speller. The ALTA spelling programme, which is geared toward our students who have completed Level 2 of the programme, incorporates and expands on the spelling strategies and rules taught in ALTA literacy programme.

Below we have a contribution from one of our students, Maureen who is a member of our Spelling Programme at St George’s College in Barataria.

The initial reason for my interest in ALTA was as a form of support for my brother but then I thought that I could benefit from the programme as well. The areas I needed help in were spelling and reading for understanding. I started at Level 2 and progressed to the Spelling Programme which was most helpful to me as it pointed to the issues pertaining to my spelling problems. With an emphasis on phonics and the understanding of the composition of the English language the programme taught me how to apply the rules required to enable me to spell any word. Thus my spelling improved greatly.

Throughout my academic life I struggled with feelings of inferiority because of my shortcomings. My participation in the ALTA programme has been a rich and rewarding experience. It has afforded me the opportunity to build self confidence. I can say that learning has become an enjoyable experience rather than one of necessity. I attribute my positive experience to the patience, willingness and respect shown by the tutors regardless of our level.

Attending these classes has also given me the privilege of meeting new people and making friends. Our class was united in their efforts to help and support each other in achieving our goals. Whatever obstacles you need to overcome in order to better yourself; do it. You are never too old and it is not too late to accomplish your life’s goals. The ALTA programme is the ideal foundation as a first step to understanding what is needed for self improvement. It will put you on the path to realizing your potential.

ALTA starts the Spelling Programme in October after new student registration in September. This gives potential spelling students who are new to ALTA the opportunity to spend four weeks in Level 2 to check that Spelling Programme is their best ALTA match. 

Youth Lit 2015-16

i Jun 10th No Comments by

ALTA’s Youth Lit programme is now in its eighth year! The programme which is done in partnership with NALIS aims to provide effective literacy instruction to students within primary or secondary schools who have literacy challenges which are not being addressed.
Youth Lit 2015-16 began last November with 112 students at ten libraries around the country. The number increased in 2016 with ten new students enrolling in the program. By June 2016, the large majority of students received certificates of excellence, while some will return to Youth Lit in order to continue the improvement of their literacy skills.
Certificates of Excellence which were donated by Mario’s Pizzeria entitle the recipient to a complimentary mini pizza. Students were awarded a certificate after a specific goal was achieved, for example; attendance or punctuality. For the third year, former ALTA tutor Karese Toby who teaches at St Augustine Girls’ High School, was able to get Sixth Form students to volunteer in Terms 1 and 2 at Arima and Chaguanas Youth Lit classes.
The dates for Youth Lit registration 2016 are Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th September, with classes beginning the week of October 3rd 2016.


Technology for Good 2016

i Jun 10th No Comments by

On May 25th, 2016 non-profit organisations benefited from Microsoft’s Technology for Good Day, a joint initiative between the global technology giant, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA).

ALTA has benefitted from free software from Microsoft since 2000 and the upgrade to Office 365 was welcomed as the package came with integrated online Outlook, SharePoint and One Drive storage of a terabyte per user. Our upgrade was implemented with assistance from Chuck Stuart of Icons Company and has assisted us greatly with the coordinating and running of our free literacy classes, as well as the ALTA Online project. Office 365 is not only used by ALTA in-house staff but also provides access to our Regional Coordinators and special project team members.

Technology has become increasingly important for non-profits in Trinidad and Tobago and facilitates the social transformation these organisations desire to make a reality. The Technology for Good Day was designed to provide these organisations with the technological tools and the know-how needed to augment their social impact. At the event it was announced that non-profits with charitable status would receive access to Microsoft Office 365, to enable productivity anywhere and anytime. The donation was made possible through a global programme that provides qualifying non-profits and nongovernmental organisations with the software free of charge.

For Microsoft, Technology for Good Day was an opportunity to continue its support of non-profit organisations that contribute to the development of Trinidad and Tobago. For ALTA it was great exposure and an opportunity to network and assist NGO’s around the country.

Click to see pictures.