Return to Hands home page
Hands Across the Sea is dedicated
to raising the literacy levels
of Eastern Caribbean children
Donate to Hands Across the Sea
Hands Across the Sea, the largest and most effective literacy assistance organization serving the Eastern Caribbean, is changing the landscape of child literacy. Through our CLASS (Caribbean Literacy and School Support) Program, we are raising the literacy levels of Caribbean children through a three-step process: send great new books; create or rejuvenate lending libraries; and sustain the literacy gains
Two words: need and passion. When we're considering assisting a school, community library, reading program, or after-school youth center, first we determine whether a need is present—we want to make sure that assistance from Hands (in the form of books, learning resources, and hands-on help from our Hands Literacy Links) will be utilized appropriately. Second, and just as important, is passion: do the educators at a prospective Hands Wish Lists project have a true passion for literacy? Will they commit themselves—and enlist the aid of parents, community volunteers, and local businesses—to create, rejuvenate, and maintain a lending library for years to come?
Two words: logistics angels. From our start in 2007, our success in getting great books to Caribbean children has been made possible by three truly philanthropic companies: Harte-Hanks, Inc. (warehouse and fulfillment services), AIT Worldwide Logistics (long-haul trucking), and Tropical Shipping (ocean shipping to the Caribbean). With the help of volunteers, we sort and pack books and teaching resources during the summer months for each year's Hands Wish Lists projects; we ship in September. Ministry of Education officials on each island (and in Dominica, the Lions Club), along with Hands Literacy Links, make sure that every box reaches its destination.
Step #1: Send New Amazing Asked-for Books
We've seen firsthand that the "donation dumping" practice commonly used by charities that send throwaway books—library discards, worn-out, outdated, or inappropriate books—to Caribbean children is harmful. Hands Across the Sea purchases only new books from the world's leading education and children's book publishers. Not only do children respond to new, well-written and well-illustrated books with contemporary subject matter, the effect of "seeing themselves" in Caribbean-content books is particularly powerful for young readers. How do we know which books and teaching resources to send? All materials are selected in collaboration with the school principals, teachers, and U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers via each year's Hands Wish Lists.

Step #2: Create/Rejuvenate Lending Libraries
Great books alone are not enough to create a love of reading. Hands Across the Sea works only with schools and community libraries and reading programs whose staff are truly committed to improving literacy, and can draw on support from literacy coordinators and remedial reading teachers. The best way to make reading a part of children's lives is to create sustainable, high-functioning lending libraries, usually a school library. Doing so takes dedication and resources, along with substantial buy-in from school staff, parents, and members of the local community. The methodologies of our Hands Across the Sea Library Manual for Primary Schools, a guide to creating school libraries, and our Teachers Resource Guide to the Library (Grades K-3), with proven strategies for making the most of the school library, and the Hands Student Librarian program, which builds pride, responsibility, and a love of books and reading, are being utilized by many schools.

Step #3: Sustain the Literacy Gains
Trained librarians are in short supply throughout the Eastern Caribbean. School libraries are sustained with the help of student librarians, dedicated teachers, government-funded youth employment scheme workers, English department heads, PTA members, and community volunteers. To make sure that the books and teaching supplies are being fully utilized, Hands Across the Sea visits recipient schools and projects; our on-island Hands Literacy Links work directly with each Hands Wish Lists project. We track sustainability, help schools overcome management obstacles, train staff, implement improvements, and share best practices within each country and across the region.
CLASS Programs
We achieve the CLASS goals—send new amazing asked-for books; create/rejuvenate lending libraries; and sustain the literacy gains—through these seven programs.
Hands Wish Lists
We send only brand new amazing books from the world’s leading children’s book and educational publishersnever used books or inappropriate, "donation dumped" books. The titles have been requested via the Wish Lists submitted by school principals, teachers, literacy coordinators, librarians, U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers, and students. New amazing books get children excited about reading, and that helps their literacy skills grow.
Hands Libraries
Hands school libraries are a wonderland of exploration, discovery, and learning that lead children into a love affair with reading. A Hands lending library at a school is an academically powerful, life-changing resource. The Hands Across the Sea Library Manual for Primary Schools, used by over 350 schools, lays out a proven methodology for creating and running a school library that is easily managed and sustainable.
Hands Literacy Links
Hands Literacy Links (on-island program officers) are dedicated to making each Hands project a success. Hands Literacy Links are caring, qualified, and experienced—most are highly credentialed retired school teachers or principals with 30- to 40-year careers in education. Literacy Links work closely with educators, education ministries, local communities, and students to further the life-changing power of books, reading, and literacy.
Hands Student Librarians
Trained by a Hands Literacy Link, boys and girls from Grade 2 to high school can run the library—overseeing the checkout system, tidying the book collection, helping other students find the right book, managing behavior in the library, and promoting the library in the school and the community. Student Librarians gain self-esteem in this position of responsibility, and their enthusiasm for books, reading, and the library spreads across the school.
Hands Teachers Resource Guide to the Library
Our groundbreaking 179-page Teachers Resource Guide to the Library (Grades K–3) is a Caribbean-centric teacher-support resource. The TRG gives teachers tools and strategies that connect the school library to their classroom lessons, saving them time and helping their students excel. All five sections (Best Practices, Library Time, Book Blurbs, Lesson Plans, and Library Resources) are downloadable from the Teachers Resource Guide webpage.
Hands Remedial Reading Toolkit
Many high school students are reading far below grade level. Along with Hands teacher workshops, our multifaceted Remedial Reading Toolkit (pocket charts, word and letter tiles, flashcards, sight-word Bingo and Bananagrams) of teen-appropriate materials, helps high schoolers close the gap on reading skills. The centerpiece, the TERL (Teen Emergent Reader Libraries) from Saddleback Educational Publishing, helps develop phonics and decoding skills.
Hands Literacy Award
The Hands Literacy Award recognizes primary and secondary schools that are leading the way in child literacy—and we reward them with $1,000 in books or literacy resources of their choice. We choose the winners on: creating, rejuvenating, and sustaining a lending library; commitment to literacy by staff; “ownership” of the library by children; literacy-focused initiatives such as a Student Librarian program, remedial reading, book clubs—and more.