We seek nothing less than the transformation of the child literacy landscape in the Eastern Caribbean. Every year, we send thousands of great new books—over 464,000 since we started in 2007—that have been requested by educators via our Hands Wish Lists. We help schools (from pre-school to high school), reading programs, and community libraries—that's over 350 projects to date—create or rejuvenate lending libraries. And we work hands-on with our projects year after year—we're with them for as long as they need our help
Slideshow: Before and After
Hands Across the Sea has helped create or rejuvenate over 350 lending libraries in Eastern Caribbean schools.
Why We Chose the Eastern Caribbean
The English-speaking West Indies islands of Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are wonderful vacation destinations, but the schools are underfunded and lacking in education resources.
Reading books for children are expensive—unaffordable for most parents—and as a result child literacy levels suffer. The economies support agricultural, fishing, and tourism jobs, and many adults do not read above grade 6 level. All three sectors have suffered in recent years, making education beyond the 6th grade vital. In response and since 2005, secondary education has become compulsory across the Eastern Caribbean. Keeping students in school is a positive step, but many enter Form 1 (7th grade) with 2nd or 3rd grade reading levels.
What Changing the Literacy Landscape Looks Like
It's a matter of social justice: We refuse to accept the fact that many thousands of children in the Eastern
When Dreams Come True
What happens when a library full of great new books is created in a rural primary school? Let the kids tell it.
Caribbean grow up not reading. We refuse to accept the fact that these children do not have access to current, high-quality reading material that is age- and culturally-appropriate. And we refuse to accept the fact that children do not have access to a lending library of great books that will get them hooked on reading.
That's why we send brand new, top-quality books requested by educators. That's why we help create or rejuvenate lending libraries, usually in schools. That's why we insist that every Hands Wish Lists project be sustainable—a vital part of the Hands goal is to "sustain the gains" in child literacy. The best place to find out how we've been achieving these goals is to visit our CLASS (Caribbean Literacy and School Support) page.
We Are All Fighting the "Donation Dumpers"
Schools and libraries in the Eastern Caribbean continue to struggle from decades of "donation dumping"—well-meaning but misguided book-donation agencies, church groups, and individuals in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. that send worn-out, inappropriate books
When Great Books Come to School
Caring educators and great books—top-quality, relevant, age-appropriate—can draw kids into reading.
that do more harm than good. And it is still going on today. Typical dumped donations to schools include library discards, tourist paperbacks (from gruesome murder mysteries to bodice rippers to Cold War spy novels), outdated textbooks (Caribbean schools follow their own currriculum, thank you very much), moldy encyclopedia sets, latest-fad diet books, religious tracts, and all manner of duds.
The rationale of dumpers seems to be "any book is better than no book"—but this is a false choice. In fact, these bad books turn children off of reading and take up precious shelf space. A key part of the on-site mentoring by Hands Literacy Links involves helping schools and libraries get rid of the dumped books to make way for the great new books from Hands.