After eleven years of offering lively, innovative events and programmes for young readers, the NGC Children’s Bocas Lit Fest has launched an exciting new resource — Bocas Storytime, a dedicated YouTube channel for viewers aged 12 and under. Bocas Storytime promises a diverse range of videos available on demand — read-alouds, animations, storytelling, and fun workshops — all inspired by Caribbean writing and culture.
Bocas Storytime is live from Saturday 30 April, with new content added regularly in the weeks ahead. The Bocas Storytime launch coincides with the 2022 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, aimed at adult readers and viewers, which runs from Thursday 28 to Sunday 1 May. Since 2011, children’s events have been an integral part of the programme.
“In some ways, this is the most important part of what we do,” says festival director Nicholas Laughlin. “The NGC Children’s Bocas Lit Fest offers fun and entertainment, but it also helps create a future generation of readers and writers, opening their eyes to the creative potential of words and stories. Our new YouTube channel will make our video content for under-12s even more convenient for children and parents to access — they can watch their favourites any day and time, as often as they like.”
Bocas Storytime will nurture young viewers’ language skills and improve their understanding of the world around us, through topics such as Carnival, folklore, and the environment. It also features inspiring young writers, like six-year-old Coryn Clarke, T&T’s youngest published author, and nine-year-old Josh Hansraj, two-time winner of Dragonzilla’s Short Story Writing Challenge. Other young authors sharing their work include Kai-De Alexis, Naila Baynes, and Mila Smith, all of whom have recently published their own books.
Music also comes into the mix, in the video “How to Become a Calypsonian”, with a read-aloud from a children’s book by Antigua and Barbuda author Desryn Collins, featuring an appearance by young performer Aaron Duncan. Jamaica’s “royal family” of reggae also make an appearance, with a read-aloud by Ziggy Marley and his wife Orly, who have co-written Little John Crow, a heartwarming story with a lesson about accepting our differences.
Other Bocas Storytime videos offer read-alouds by popular T&T children’s authors Tracey Baptiste, Jeunanne Alkins, Neala Bhagwansingh, Liseanne Martin-Subero, and Gail Morong. A special video produced in association with the Trinidad and Tobago Association for the Hearing Impaired (TTAHI) features author Raymond Antrobus reading from his storybook Can Bears Ski?, accompanied by sign language interpretation. Children can also explore their creativity with an art workshop by poet and artist Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné on “The Jungle Outside”.
The NGC Children’s Bocas Lit Fest’s move to producing online content for young viewers was a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, after health restrictions made it impossible to continue the festival’s beloved in-person events in 2020 and 2021. Over the past two years, dramatised storytelling videos, animations, and Dragonzilla’s Short Story Writing Challenge gave young audiences access to stimulating local content, even during the pandemic lockdown. The new YouTube channel is the next step in stewarding this treasure trove of free, age-appropriate online content for children. The Bocas Storytime channel launch comes even as the festival plans to resume its in-person programming later in 2022, including the return of the Children’s Storytelling Caravan, which for nearly a decade took some of T&T’s best storytellers to venues across the country to perform for youngsters and help them craft their own stories, collected in a series of colourful illustrated books.
The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited is the title sponsor of the NGC Children’s Bocas Lit Fest.