Reading, It’s Life!

Reading Myths – Myth #2

i Dec 23rd No Comments by

ALTA students often
cite widely held misconceptions about the teaching and learning of reading and
writing as factors that delayed their literacy journeys.

ALTA has long argued that the acquisition of reading skills requires concerted effort and is not an automatic outcome from being enrolled in the formal school system and being in a learning environment. Educator and literacy researcher Sebastian Wren, Ph.D, expounds on this as we continue to look at myths associated with reading.

#2: Children will eventually learn to read if given enough time

This is arguably
the second most pernicious myth, and it is closely related to the first. Many
who claim that reading is natural also claim that children need to be given
time to develop their reading skills at their own pace. This is a double-edged
sword because while it is true that children should be taught to read in
developmentally appropriate ways, and that we should always address instruction
to each child’s zone of proximal development, we should not simply wait for
children to develop reading skills in their own time. A child who is not
developing reading skills along with his or her peers is a reason for great

Research has revealed an extremely dangerous phenomenon that has been dubbed the “Matthew Effect.” The term comes from the line in the Bible that essentially says that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That certainly describes what happens as children enter school and begin learning literacy skills. Over time, the gap between children who have well developed literacy skills and those who do not get wider and wider.

At the early
grades, the literacy gap is relatively easy to cross, and with diagnostic,
focused instruction, effective teachers can help children with poor literacy
skills to become children with rich literacy skills. However, if literacy
instruction needs are not met early, then the gap widens – the rich get richer,
and the poor get poorer – until the gap gets so wide that bridging it requires
extensive, intensive, expensive and frustrating remedial instruction. The gap
reaches this nearly insurmountable point very early – research has shown that
if a child is not reading grade-appropriate materials by the time he or she is
in the fourth grade, the odds of that child ever developing good reading skills
are very slim. It is still possible, but it is much more difficult, and the
child’s own motivation becomes the biggest obstacle to success.

Wren, S.
(2002). Ten myths of reading instruction. SEDL.

If you or someone you know is interested in enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook,
Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

Reading Myths – Myth #1

i Dec 10th No Comments by

ALTA students often cite widely held
misconceptions about the teaching and learning of reading and writing as
factors that delayed their literacy journeys. Today we begin a look into some
of these myths.

Since most of us can’t remember when or how we
learnt to read, we tend to think of this skill as being a task we are born to
do, rather than one that requires systematic, focused instruction. In his
article, “Ten Myths about Learning to Read,” the myth of reading as an innate
process is debunked by US-based literacy researcher Sebastian Wren, Ph.D,
author of The Cognitive Functions of Learning to Read: A Framework.

Myth #1: Learning to read is a natural process.

It has long been argued that learning
to read, like learning to understand spoken language, is a natural phenomenon.
It has often been suggested that children will learn to read if they are simply
immersed in a literacy-rich environment and allowed to develop literacy skills
in their own way. This pernicious belief that learning to read is a natural
process resulting from rich text experiences is surprisingly prevalent in
education—despite the fact that learning to read is not only unnatural, it is
one of the most unnatural things humans do.

There is a difference between learning
to read text and learning to understand a spoken language. Learning to
understand speech is indeed a natural process; starting before birth, children
tune in to spoken language in their environment, and as soon as they are able,
they begin to incorporate a language. If the linguistic environment is not
sufficiently rich or if it is confusing, the innate drive to find a language is
so strong that, if necessary, children will create a language of their own
(examples of this include twin languages and pidgin languages). Given the
opportunity, children will naturally develop all of the essential comprehension
skills for the language to which they are exposed with little structured or
formal guidance.

By contrast, reading acquisition is not
natural. While the ability to understand speech evolved over many, many
thousands of years, reading and writing are human inventions that have been
around for merely a few thousand years. It has been only within the past few
generations that some cultures have made any serious attempt to make literacy
universal among their citizens.

If reading were natural, everybody
would be doing it, and we would not have to worry about dealing with a
‘literacy gap.’ According to the National Institute for Literacy and the Center
for Education Statistics, more than 40 million adults in this country alone are
functionally illiterate, and despite our best educational efforts,
approximately 40 percent of our fourth graders lack even the most basic reading
skills. These staggering numbers provide evidence that reading is a skill that
is quite unnatural and difficult to learn.

Wren, S. (2002). Ten myths of reading instruction. SEDL.

If you or someone you know is interested in enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA

For the Love of Reading TT

i Dec 2nd No Comments by

This week, we feature yet another
innovative initiative in the field of literacy, For the Love of Reading TT.

For the Love of Reading TT is a feel-good,
community centred project which started in April 2018 out of a real passion for
reading and sharing. We collect book donations and distribute them to our ten
book corners in various parts of Trinidad. Anyone can pick up one or two books
for free – no strings attached.

We have shared over 40,000 books to date
and touched thousands of people from all walks of life. At the book corners we
hear things like “Free books!”, “Are they really free?”, “I’m choosing one for
my aunt”, “Where can I find a book for my nephew?”, “Can I donate some books
next time?”, “I haven’t seen this book since I was in primary school!”, and
occasionally “I’ve been looking for this book all over the place!”.

The business-owners who host our book
corners have recounted some heart-warming stories too. We have seen the joy in
the faces of young children who are told that they can choose any book they
want. Some people who lost their belongings in the floods of 2019 became
regular visitors to one nearby book corner. Another customer was a homeless
person who borrowed a wartime book each time he visited and would read and
return it before borrowing another.

The businesses that host our book corners
are all aligned with our concept of community spirit, of giving freely and
without judgement. We feel strongly that books should be accessible to all,
whether it is to develop literacy skills as a child or adult, or for a seasoned
reader to simply enjoy a good book.

It has been inspiring to see that people
have been consistently willing to give; we have had a constant supply of
donated books since we started more than three years ago. It reassures us that
the idea of selfless sharing does exist. It is exactly for this reason that we
say “no strings attached”. People can take a book for free with no need to give
another in return. They can keep it for themselves, pass it on to someone else
when they are done, or return it to the bookshelf.

For the Love of Reading TT was founded by
Najmie Khan – volunteer ALTA teacher and reading enthusiast – who enlisted the
help of her daughter Aara. We are assisted by a small group of volunteers who
help to clean and sort incoming donations before the books are placed on the
shelves. We are always in need of more volunteers to help sort and clean books,
and manage book corners. Get in touch with us on Facebook or Instagram if you
would like to get involved! 

You can also help out by donating books at
any of our book corners. We appreciate all book donations, whether it is one
book or a hundred. People donate all types of books – novels, non-fiction,
textbooks, children’s books, cookbooks, and more. We are always especially excited
when we receive donations of local literature too, which disappear quickly once
we put them on the bookshelves.

If you would like to donate books, you can drop them
off at any of our ten locations – it feels good to do good! The listing of all
book corner locations is available on social media pages, or at

NALIS: Meeting New Demands

i Nov 25th No Comments by

Today, ALTA welcomes our long
standing partners at the National Library and Information System Authority
(NALIS) to outline their work in bridging the information and digital literacy
gap in Trinidad and Tobago.

NALIS: Supporting literacy for 23

Established by Act 18 of 1998, the
National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) celebrates its 23rd
Anniversary in 2021. During this time of our existence, we have been committed
to hosting and collaborating to produce literacy centred programmes and
activities, in fulfillment of our mandate to ‘promote literacy skills and
awareness in the use of library material and information services within the
community’ (NALIS Act 18 of 1998, pg. 7).

The types of literacy skills that
NALIS strives to foster in our users, goes beyond the development of reading
and writing competencies, which are skills that define literacy in its
traditional sense. In fact, our programmes develop computer, digital, media,
financial and information literacies. According to the International Federation
of Library Associations (IFLA, 2021), information literacy is the cornerstone
for lifelong learning. According to the American Library Association (1989) “to
be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is
needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed
information.” NALIS has successfully and continues to be committed to fostering
these various types of literacy skills in our users in order to meet their
diverse educational, cultural and recreational needs.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, NALIS
hosted numerous in-house programmes and activities to promote literacy
throughout our various publics, including storytelling, book clubs, reading
challenges, computer literacy classes and World Read Aloud Day activities. We
would have also partnered with various organisations to promote and develop
literacy and reading skills. The Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA) is
one of these organisations with which NALIS shares a long standing and profound

With the advent of the COVID-19
pandemic, NALIS like all other institutions in Trinidad and Tobago, in fact,
around the world; has had to pivot in making library and information services
accessible virtually. Further to this, as information seeking has moved to the online
realm, librarians are present on the front lines of the fight against
misinformation and disinformation, continuously seeking out new and more
effective ways of helping our various publics apply information literacy
principles to their everyday lives.

One group of persons that NALIS has
sought to assist is our senior citizens. Recognising that many seniors have
been left behind as technology has invaded all aspects of our lives, NALIS
sprang into action. In December 2020, the Digital Literacy for Seniors
initiative was piloted, then rolled out in January 2021. Through this
programme, senior citizens, our ‘golden members,’ are taught how to use
applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Zoom and the internet, to assist them
in their daily and routine activities.

Librarians within NALIS’ Educational
Library Services Division (ELSD) have also answered the call to assist students
and parents, who had been relegated to the online realm as the COVID-19
pandemic ravaged the world. Even though schools have been operating virtually
for almost two years, students are still struggling to cope with learning in an
online environment. In June 2021, the Navigating Online Learning series was launched,
with a goal to meet the information needs of students by focusing on developing
their research skills and using eLearning Management Systems such as Google
Classroom. The programme also assists parents in monitoring their child’s
performance on these online systems.

NALIS has a renewed commitment to support
the needs of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, by bridging the digital
divide and promoting literacy in all forms. By transcending the limitations of
our traditional brick and mortar spaces, NALIS continues to serve to ensure
that our nation is well equipped with persons who can confidently use
information to make informed decisions, solve problems and enrich their lives.

Learn more about NALIS’ initiatives at
or email

Let’s Read

i Nov 22nd No Comments by

ALTA continues its focus on
the work of some of our peers in the literacy space. Today, we highlight our
friends at Let’s Read. Let’s Read is a registered non-governmental organization
with the aim of ensuring that every child regardless of location has the
opportunity to acquire literacy skills and books to reach their full potential.

At Let’s Read, we believe that
reading is the foundation of physical and emotional well-being, intellectual
growth and economic security. The importance of literacy development cannot be
understated and our mission to promote reading in schools and communities
addresses this.

Children and adolescents need
consistent access to good quality, relevant books at home and at school. Let’s
Read is working to get books in every child’s hands through four programme


Let’s Read donates age-appropriate books to
families of new-born babies attending medical check-ups with their
paediatrician, privately and through selected government clinics. Let’s Read’s
focus reinforces the importance of sharing books in the home from birth. Included
are guidelines for books from birth to 3, along with parent tips for book
sharing during the early years.

Primary School

Research tells us that better school libraries result in more reading. Let’s Read partners with public primary schools to re-establish their library space so that students can explore a diverse selection of good quality books and enjoy reading for pleasure.  It is Let’s Read’s hope that the library will become the focal point of the school and another space for children to learn. A space where children who struggle with reading, or just haven’t found the right book yet, can enjoy a book of their own free choice without the pressure that can sometimes be felt in the classroom. While schools have been closed due to the pandemic, the Let’s Read team has been reading aloud online to a number of children in our partner schools.

Little Community

A Little Community Library is a “take a book,
return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the
most common version is a small wooden box of books placed strategically within
a community. Little Community Libraries encourage reading and strengthen
community ties through sharing and stewardship. It is Let’s Read’s aim to
partner with communities across Trinidad and Tobago, especially in remote areas
where children have few good books of their own at home and limited access to a
public library. It is Let’s Read’s expectation that the community members will
build the book sharing box, Let’s Read will donate a diverse collection of
books, provide a Little Community Library Handbook and ongoing guidance.

Professional Development

Reading is key to a child’s learning but 1 in 4
primary school students is a struggling reader. In order to adopt
research-based practices for teaching reading, teachers must be supported with
quality professional development that helps them develop an extensive knowledge
and skills base. After the reestablishment of a primary school library space,
Let’s Read’s qualified educators facilitate a workshop to acquaint the school’s
staff with the library space and encourage them to focus on researched-based
instructional practices linked to improved student literacy.

Let’s Read passionately believes that reading aloud to children before
they can even talk is one of the most important elements in literacy development.
It is important to read to and
with children for all the same reasons we should talk to them:

  • to reassure
  • to entertain
  • to bond
  • to inform or explain,
  • to awaken curiosity
  • to inspire.

Reading aloud to children is an advertisement for
the wonder of print. It conditions their brains to associate reading with
positive feelings. It increases their general knowledge, improves their
vocabulary and helps them become better readers. Children discover the joy of
reading when exposed to a variety of books which get them excited about reading
and inspires them to want to do it more.

Join Lets Read in
igniting the love of reading in all children in Trinidad and Tobago, Let’s
Read. Contact them at

Spotlight on the Dyslexia Association

i Nov 11th No Comments by

At ALTA, we recognise our peers in literacy
education. This week we highlight the work of the Dyslexia Association, a
volunteer organization founded in 1990 by a group of teachers and parents
concerned for their dyslexic children.

The Dyslexia Association supports dyslexics,
parents and teachers, educates the wider community about this learning
difference and trains teachers in methods for teaching dyslexics. The
Association also aims to work with the Ministry of Education towards placing a
specially trained teacher in every school.

In an interview with Anya Aching, a young
person who has been navigating the world with dyslexia, Dyslexia Association Chairman
Cathryn Kelshall uncovers the process from assessment and early intervention, to

Cathryn Kelshall: Today we’re talking to Anya Aching, wonderful
artist who is also dyslexic.

So can you tell me how old you are?

AA: I’m 19 years old

CK: When did you first find out you were dyslexic?

AA: I first found out I was dyslexic in
primary school when I realized that I was having a bit of issues with spelling and
reading and just keeping up in class. So my mom took me to get assessed and
through my assessment, they recommended that I get some early intervention with
Christine David Lewis. So I did years of that.

CK: Wonderful. And in fact, she’s one of
our Dyslexia Association trained teachers. I know that you did very well in
school and all your CAPE exams. You were on the Caribbean Merit List twice. How
did you cope?

AA: I coped with school – and with
everything in general – by creating and by using my art to calm down, just calm
myself and refocus and take my mind off of school, because school is really stressful.
So that’s how I coped.

CK: Did you get any help in school?

AA: Yeah, I got a lot of help. My friends
are amazing. I really thought that I had to keep my dyslexia a secret around them,
but eventually I just told them and they were like, “Okay, cool. Tell me more.”
And I was like, “This is great!”

So I have a best friend, and she kind of
became my aid in school unknowingly. We just kind of gelled and she understood
me and she helped me a lot.

CK: So she helped you with notes?

AA: Yeah, she helped take all my notes and
then after school, she gave me a lot of help, kind of like lessons. But she
made it fun.

CK: What about coping with the amount of
reading you had to do?

AA: She had this thing where if we had a passage
to read, she would make me read a paragraph, and then she would read a paragraph,
and then I would read a paragraph. And if I got tired, then she would just
continue reading and make sure that I was focused and on-task.

CK: What a great friend – and you told me
that your mum also helped you with your reading.

AA: Yeah – my mom did a lot for me.

CK: So you did really well at school. What
are you doing now?

AA: Right now I’m a studio assistant at
Splice Studios.

CK: Does your dyslexia affect you in your

AA: Yeah, it does a lot. We’re able to use
our creativity in the studio all the time. And fun fact: everybody in the
studio is dyslexic!

CK: So you see that your dyslexia is
positive in your job?

AA: Yes, extremely.

CK: You’ve actually chosen a good job for dyslexics.
So what advice do you have for others?

AA: So I have advice for parents, teachers
and students. So for parents, if you notice your child has dyslexia then I
would recommend getting them assessed and getting some early intervention and
supporting them. That would go a long way.

And for teachers I recommend patience and
providing notes for the students because note taking is really hard. For students
or just kids in general, I would recommend putting your pride aside and asking
for help and don’t be ashamed of it. I used to be ashamed of it, but it’s
nothing to be ashamed about. Also find a support system. You don’t need a whole
group of people. It can just be one person.

CK: So wonderful! Dyslexia and proud – I
love it! Anya can you share with everybody the Dyslexia Association telephone

AA: You guys can call 281-READ (7323).

CK: Wonderful! Thank you so much Anya, for
coming in to talk to us.

AA: You’re welcome.

If you wish to find out more aboutinspiring confidence through uniqueness”with the Dyslexia Association, contact
them at 281-READ or .

Bringing ICT in Focus with ALTA Online

i Nov 8th No Comments by

is partnering with the Ministry of Digital Transformation to bring its online
instruction to more communities across Trinidad and Tobago.  ALTA Online is a web-based programme designed
for independent use by persons ranging from preteens to adults who have
low-level reading and spelling skills. This interactive programme built around
Caribbean life skills content was developed by local software developers and is
the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.

work to bring literacy learning to the digital space dovetails well with the
Ministry’s vision of “the use of ICT for development that contributes to the
well-being of citizens.” Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Digital
Transformation, Mr. Richard Madray states that there is “close alignment
between the ALTA Online programme, and Government’s agenda for Digital

ALTA Founder and CEO,
Paula Lucie-Smith notes “One out of every four of our
adults can’t read this article. Literacy is required for participation in life
today, and as communication moves to the digital world, the literacy divide is
now compounded by the digital divide. ALTA
Online addresses both the literacy divide and the digital divide.”

Monday 1st November 2021, thanks to the Central Division Unit of the
TTPS, over 40 community members have signed up to access ALTA Online Level 1 at
the Todd’s Road ICT Access Centre, an initiative sponsored by Unicomer Trinidad
Limited.  This opens an exciting
opportunity for increasing the literacy skills of a wider pool of students,
namely those living and working outside of major city centres, thereby
improving their ability to function in and contribute to society. 

four-way partnership involves:

  1. The Ministry of
    Digital Transformation’s ICT Centres providing the computers, internet access and
    on-site support staff
  2. Corporate funding
    to purchase ALTA Online licences
  3. The support of
    the Central Division Community Police to spread awareness within the community
    and provide support to students
  4. ALTA providing
    the software, mentor training and user support

invites businesses to partner with us in providing funding for bringing
literacy to persons at the other 5 ICT centres: 
Penal, Guayaguayare, Cumana, Marac and Carenage. At ALTA, we are
convinced that this partnership with the business community offers a strong
win-win proposition. On one hand, it enables ALTA to expand its catchment of
students thereby helping to increase basic and functional literacy in
communities across Trinidad and Tobago, while also opening a window for the
business community to contribute to a worthy cause that can promote social
cohesion and a more progressive society.

for the programme is evident in the feedback received from students and

am enjoying the lessons.  It is really
helping and inspiring me.  I am working
hard and I have my goals of where I would like to reach.  I realize that the ALTA programme would help
me get there.  There are some game
activities which is enjoyable.  There are
also short videos to watch which I like. 
I am keeping up good work”

ALTA programme has been going great for my son. 
The structure is excellent in the way that he is able to use it by
himself.  I believe that it is helping
him with the basic spelling and sounding of words.  It is also helping him with his reading.  I am seeing an improvement.  He is on Book 2, so I am looking forward to
seeing more improvement in his school work and reading:

If you or someone you know is interested in
enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor,
call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook,
Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

ALTA Students in the Time of Covid

i Oct 28th No Comments by

Today we come to the
end of our series of articles featuring the work of ALTA students during Covid.

We note that while
ALTA students join classes with varying degrees of reading and writing skill, the
pieces shared in this series are from student writers at ALTA Level 3 and the ALTA
Spelling Programme. These students are competent readers who have reached a
certain comfort level with the written word and are acquiring mastery of
Standard English grammar and spelling.

The main take
away our students have emphasised in these featured pieces and throughout our
classes has been resilience, resourcefulness and continued hope for a brighter
future with a strong foundation of improved literacy.

Student CS shares
her thoughts and experience of the pandemic. While it has been a time of
anxiety, struggle and adversity, she is optimistic about the future now that
vaccines are finally available.


The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the lives
of many – both locally and by extension internationally. Having to battle with
the virus has taken its course leaving many with a scar to remember. Since
December 2019, I can still remember hearing the news about this coronavirus
coming from China and the potential impact on a person’s health and the

However, this became a reality in March 2020,
almost one year ago, when the Prime Minister announced that there would be a
serious restriction with respect to movement and human interaction within
Trinidad and Tobago. I especially recall sitting and watching in amazement and horror
as several things I enjoyed doing such as hanging out, visiting the beach, enjoying
a bite of bake and shark, cooking by the river and even simple things like
being able to sit in a taxi, were being impacted.

Almost every person in the country was forced
to remain at home. The pandemic brought me to a point where I was in a state of
anxiety, causing me to spiral into frustration, creating panic about not having
enough money to sustain my family. I even recall the fear of leaving the house
to simply go to the grocery to pick up food items.

Due to the uncertainty of not knowing how long
the shutdown was going to last, there were times when I had to explain to my
young nieces and nephews why schools were closed. The closure of school also
created panic among the younger ones who were preparing to sit the Secondary Entrance
Assessment, as they were worried about not having the opportunity to complete
their studies.

I even recall having to counsel a close friend
whose livelihood was dependent on driving a taxi. His income continues to be
negatively impacted by the pandemic as to this day he cannot operate his taxi at
full capacity. Similarly, another friend of mine, who worked in a gym, lost her
job due to the length of time they were forced to remain closed. It was really
sad to witness.

At a point in time, my grandmother did not
want to leave the house because of the fear instilled in her by watching the
news constantly. She was afraid of catching this virus because, due to her
medical condition, she feared that her chance of surviving the virus was slim
to none.

Over the past few months, the lockdown allowed
us to learn to live with limited movement and eventually I was able to return
to work. The changes made as a result of the pandemic are the new normal and my
challenge is juggling school and work once again. Additionally, the government,
educational institutions and some businesses across the nation began implementing
policies that allowed persons to work or attend school from home, resulting in
many persons investing in laptops, printers and tablets.

I remember finally being able to visit the
beach after four to six months and to be able to press my feet into the sand.
In spite of all the challenges, the entire year has been an event of struggle
and adversity for many including myself. Thankfully, Trinidad and Tobago has
not been impacted as badly as the rest of the world, especially the United
States where over five hundred thousand people died from the coronavirus.

While it is not something I’m accustomed to, I
must say that I, along with many others, am tired of having to wear a mask that
impacts on one’s ability to breathe properly. Also, I anxiously await the day when
I can go out and not have my makeup smeared or lipstick not show. With this in
mind, I understand the importance and safety of wearing the facemask and I,
therefore, will be wearing my mask with a smile.

One of the things I missed most of all is
being able to travel as I look forward to going to another island. I’m
optimistic as to what the next couple of months will bring now that vaccines
are becoming available.

If you or someone you know is
interested in joining an ALTA-V class, enhancing their literacy through ALTA
Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and
Instagram: ALTA TT

ALTA Students in the Time of Covid

i Oct 14th No Comments by

Life everywhere continues to be dominated by the pandemic and many of us
have been forced to adapt. We continue our series featuring the work of ALTA
students who tell us how they fared during this time of uncertainty.

While ALTA students join classes with
varying degrees of reading and writing skill, the pieces shared in this series
are from student writers at ALTA Level 3 and the ALTA Spelling Programme. These
students are competent readers who have reached a certain comfort level with
the written word and are acquiring mastery of Standard English grammar and

Andrea Dube has shown strength and ingenuity. She signed up for ALTA
Virtual classes to improve herself, but it also helped to keep her mind off
Covid. Here is her story.


Coronavirus started in Wuhan, China in early December 2019. During this time,
most of us were unaware of its significance. I didn’t know anything about the
coronavirus and did not think much of it at the time, but I used to listen to
the daily news and I could hear the reporters talking about the Coronavirus
which is also known as the Covid-19.

My sister
informed me about the seriousness of the virus because around that time people
started dying when they contracted it and it began spreading quickly from
country to country. I became worried because Carnival was approaching in
Trinidad and Tobago and people usually come from all different parts of the
world to enjoy our national culture.

After Carnival
ended and I realized that there were no Covid-19 cases in Trinidad and Tobago,
I breathed a sigh of relief but I was still worried about other countries. My
sister kept telling me about the seriousness of the virus because at the time
she was at home and would keep abreast of the daily news.

On March 12th,
2020, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, more specifically Trinidad, received
its first Covid-19 case. I remembered the day so vividly. I was working and a
customer came into my workplace and said that someone came into the country
with the Covid-19 virus and was placed into quarantine. On my way home, the
announcement was made on the news. By the time I got home, both my mother and
sister were aware of the news and they became afraid saying, “we got a case of
the virus”. The Health Minister also confirmed this tragedy. Some days later,
another case was confirmed and unfortunately this person succumbed to the
deadly virus.

We soon
realized that every new case that was discovered came from a person that
recently arrived in Trinidad and on March 22nd 2020, the government
decided to close our borders. To date, our borders remain closed. In addition
to the closure of our borders, all our beaches were closed and all persons that
were classed as non-essential workers had to remain at home thus putting the
country in a state of lock down.

I remember
people began to panic buy grocery items such as hand sanitizers and hand soap
as well as other cleaning products which eventually became difficult to
acquire. Some persons began manufacturing their own hand sanitizer and started
selling them. Soon after, the Health Minister announced that a face mask had to
be worn in all public spaces. This was especially hard for me because I have asthma
so I avoided going out in public.

My mother also
avoided going outdoors unless it was absolutely essential and she even became a
little paranoid. It became quite difficult for us to survive because I stayed
at home and was no longer generating an income. Eventually, the government
issued grants to persons who became unemployed and this helped to ease my
burden. Grocery items were donated by good Samaritans to assist my household.

Returning to
work was a delightful feeling even though there were a number of changes that
were made to my daily life. Social distancing, wearing a face mask, washing and
sanitizing one’s hands all became mandatory.

Whilst working one day, I was listening to 100.1 FM and I heard an announcement for ALTA Virtual classes. I wrote down the contact information and called them the following day to sign up for the classes. ALTA Virtual classes have been a tremendous help to me because I am being taught by two wonderful tutors who dedicate their time in assisting me to improve my literacy. I always look forward to my Mondays and Wednesdays ALTA virtual classes which help to keep my mind off the stresses of Covid-19.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining an
ALTA-V class, enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming
a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and
Instagram: ALTA TT

ALTA Students in the Time of Covid

i Oct 7th No Comments by

Today ALTA
student Razeen Samad shares with us how she has been navigating the pandemic.
It is tough, but she is fortunate that in her community they look out for each
other. She is optimistic about the future and encourages her neighbours to

Razeen Samad

The start of the pandemic occurred on March 12th 2020 in beautiful Trinidad and Tobago. The Minister of Health Mr. Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed the first case of Covid -19 in Trinidad and Tobago. To me, it was very scary to know that one of the deadliest viruses in the world had reached my beautiful country, and so it began.

At the end of March, in the year of 2020, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago started to put restrictions in certain places to help to stop the spread of Covid-19. I am not lying to tell you surviving with Covid -19 is very difficult and stressful. I am a single mother of two beautiful children. My daughter is an upper six student at S.W.A.H.A. Hindu College and my son is a standard 4 student at Grosvenor Presbyterian School.

It has been
very hard to cope because I need things for my kids and due to the Covid-19 no
one is hiring people to work. Many people lost their work due to the pandemic.
It is so sad but by God’s grace and my loving family and beautiful friends, I
am surviving and when I feel stress I put on my music and dance and relax

Our country
was in lockdown for about three months. We were not allowed to go to places
such as the beaches, malls, cinemas, schools and places of worship and no
in-house dining was allowed. I was unhappy because of it. I love to take my
kids out to have fun but we had to adapt to the situation that was taking place
right now. I had to take a chance of going out in the public to get food items
and stationery supplies for my kids and myself because I am a proud Level Two
student at ALTA.

I am what
you call a high-risk patient because I suffer with asthma. It is difficult to
breathe with a mask on. I always have a big bottle of sanitizer and a few extra
masks in my handbag.

Some of the
struggles we mothers are facing are as the kids are home right through they are
eating more often. Sometimes food is finished and I have to go out to buy more
food items. Mothers have it hard because we have to cook all day and have to
help teach our kids school work and do all our housework. Sometimes we do not
have any time to rest. As you lie down all you hearing is “Mummy.”

In the
beginning it was difficult to join a virtual class because I did not know what
to do. I never use Zoom before so it was a new experience for me. One thing I
miss a lot is meeting and socializing with my friends. I am a social butterfly.
I love to meet new people. I miss not being able to hug my family and friends,
but we have to do the right thing. A next difficulty we are having – as
internet drops we lose our connection but in all I am loving my virtual

The women
in my area Coal Mine are striving. We look out for each other. I encourage all
my neighbours not to give up. Things will get better in the near future. This
is my journey through Covid-19.

If you or someone you know is
interested in joining an ALTA-V class, enhancing their literacy through ALTA
Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA
on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT