In my sister’s good books
Quaezjon Bean did not want to enter the competition, but the grand prize was a tablet that he knew his five-year-old sister, Qualiia, would love.
There was also something in the Bermuda Youth Library Summer Reading Programme for him: new books and the opportunity to bury his head in them.
They were sufficient incentive for the 16-year-old who won the Teen Challenge and walked away with one of two Amazon Fire HD 10 tablets donated by Richard and Yemi Oduntan as grand prizes.
Ja'zhuria Pascoe-Trott entered the Children's Challenge and won the second tablet.
“At first I wasn't going to [enter the programme] because I've been doing it every year up until now,” said Quaezjon, who remembers one of the prizes he earned while in primary school was a plane ticket to Florida.
His mother suggested he do it again this year, with his sister in mind.
“She said, ‘Hopefully, you can win again. You can get something for her.' So I was doing it for her mainly.”
Before Covid-19 hit Bermuda at the end of March, the CedarBridge Academy student would spend every Wednesday at the Youth Library as a member of its Teen Advisory Board.
“We would organise fun, little events throughout the community — like a seniors' tea, we'd have a games night for children, we would do a poetry competition,” he said.
It all stopped when the coronavirus pandemic forced the island into lockdown.
Quaezjon, who spent much of that period “babysitting my little sister and taking care of her” said it was a lonely time for him.
“Just seeing people. That's what I missed the most,” he said.
“Not having interaction with them. I don't like not being with people.”
Were it not for Covid-19, he said he probably would have spent his summer holidays reading “a couple of books”, but “mostly hanging out with friends”.
It is another reason why his mother proposed the library's virtual summer programme, Imagine Your Story, as a good fit for him.
As explained by youth librarian Marla Smith, the team created a calendar of events that challenged children to “log reading minutes and earn prizes”.
There were 52 workshops on offer: cooking sessions, scrapbooking, Steam activities and crafts, as well as virtual field trips to museums here and abroad.
“There were story times, Book Babies sessions, yoga classes, a shark presentation by Bios, a special story session by Bermudian author Karen Franks, a magic show and Zoom teen chat sessions,” Ms Smith said.
“Children earned points and badges for each challenge or activity completed or minutes logged. Those that reached 300 points received a goodie bag, reading certificate and an entry to the grand prize draw. For each additional 300 points earned, they received an additional entry into the draw.”
A total of 281 participants earned 76,257 points having completed 864 challenges and earned 561 badges during the summer holidays.
“I did it hoping I could get the [tablet] for my sister,” said Quaezjon, who already has a phone and a laptop of his own and did not think he needed another computer for himself.
“But the thing that appealed to me most, I used it as an excuse to get my mama to get me books.”
His sister was “extremely” pleased with her present; “getting to sit outside with a book” was what he most enjoyed.
His favourite is Jason Reynolds's highly acclaimed novel The Boy in the Black Suit, which he is yet to finish.
“It's the one I really liked,” the teenager said. “It's about this boy whose mother died, unfortunately, and he was dealing with her loss as well as dealing with his father who's kind of gone, so he's dealing with his old habits and trying to get through his life.”
Although unlikely to do it himself next year, he recommends that anyone who enjoys books should sign up for the library's reading programme.
“You get to chill out and read,” he said.
“If you enjoy reading, it's good. You might even get a little prize and it's not something that's going to be difficult for you because you're just reading books and stuff like that.”
What he loves most about it is “just getting into the story”.
“I like thinking about how I would act in that same situation and things like that. I just like thinking about other worlds and how things would go and how I would act.”