CHILD development experts agree unanimously that reading to children, even before they are born, is one of the best things you can do to encourage their cognitive growth. Two Jamaican mothers, Farrah Cheuk and Shapea Lazarus, also believe this, and this led them to open the doors of Kozy Korner Book 'n' More – an independent bookshop on Central Avenue in Half-Way-Tree that sells only children's books.
But Kozy Korner does more than sells books. It's a hangout spot for children and parents alike especially on Saturdays when the little shop buzzes with excitement for its two signature programmes –Ready, Set, Play! and Story Play Saturdays.
"The first activity is for the tiny tots from zero to three years, while Story Play Saturdays is for children from four to nine depending on the book," Cheuk said.
"We also cater to children 10 and up, and we also have books for that age group."
These interactive sessions have not only created a niche for Kozy Korner as an independent bookstore, but they have also filled a gap for many parents and children.
"We noticed that although children's books are available locally, stores and libraries are not providing that kind of interaction that helps children to develop a love for reading," Cheuk said. "We feel that in order to get children to learn to love books they should also have an activity to go with a book to make them feel and imagine the theme or message of the story."
The momtrepreneurs were also pleased that parents have started to use these sessions to bond with their children on weekends.
"When a mom or dad comes and reads and plays with a child it really helps them both with bonding, especially for busy parents who struggle to fit in some us time on the weekends, or those who might not feel confident enough yet to read to them on their own," she said positively.
The weekly programmes have also helped to renew interest in local authors of children's books, as the store not only sources and stocks all the latest books but hosts frequent book readings from the authors themselves.
"New children's books are not always forthcoming. Sometimes there are a lot, and other times there is a dip," Cheuk related, "So we have to try to do something to keep the momentum going and keep children reading."
Local author Rebecca Tortello was in store and she engaged a few members of her target audience in an animated reading of her book A Pig in a Parachute after which they branched off into various sensory play activities. The little cherubs coloured, painted, sang, danced and threw beautiful feathers around the store.
As is par for the course within this age group, some toddlers preferred to engage in parallel play, perfectly content playing alone with a favourite toy in the company of good friends.
Kozy Korner is just over a year old and came about after Cheuk and Lazarus decided to expand their back-to-school book sourcing business which they've been doing for five years. Though the space is, as its name suggests, cosy, it is making a big impact on the development of scores of Jamaican children.