The Hands Literacy Award recognizes Eastern Caribbean schools, libraries, reading programs, and after-school youth centers that are leading the way in child literacy—and we reward them with U.S. $1,000 in books or literacy resources of their choice. We choose the winners on: creating and sustaining a lending library; commitment to literacy by staff; "ownership" of the library by children; literacy-focused programs such as remedial reading, book clubs, and poetry and writing groups; library infrastructure improvements; involvement in child literacy by community members.
Villa Primary School students with (left to right) Mrs. Leah Robinson, Ms. Pauline Teague, Mrs. Barbara Christopher, and Mrs. Bernadette Jarvis, Villa's Principal.
Villa Primary School
Testament to a Team Effort. Back in December of 2010 when U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Ina Howe decided to create a borrowing library at Villa Primary School, the school had been without a functioning library for 15 years. Howe, along with former school principals Mrs. King and Mrs. James, began raising money for books and getting teachers, parents, local businesses, and craftsmen involved in the project. First, the school's groundskeeper, Mr. Grotton, helped clear out a room for the library; Mr. Brown from the Ministry of Education had screens put on the windows; former Villa teacher Bernard Mason enlisted the Villa Church of Christ and Hill Crest Church of Christ (in Texas) to donate paint and send a group of Abilene Christian University students in to paint the library; and local artist Edison Liburd painted the library's murals, with paint donated by H&G Paint. Howe continued her long-distance campaign to raise money from family and friends back home in Oregon, and soon books arrived from the literacy group IACL and from Hands Across the Sea (Hands shipped a total of 1,300 books over two years). Along the way, Villa staff members Mrs. Leah Robinson (Deputy Principal), Mrs. Barbara Christopher (Reading Teacher), and Ms. Delina Graham (Grade K Teacher) were instrumental in bringing the library to life. Villa Primary School's library was officially opened in November of 2011. One year later, the library's success has been measured not only by its bright, welcoming appearance and organized bookshelves and reading tables, but by the high number of books read or taken home every week by Villa's 295 students. Congratulations, Villa Primary!
ANTIGUA Honorable Mentions: Kids Unlimited Primary School • New Winthorpes Primary School • St. John's Lutheran School • St. Mary's Secondary School
Students at Isaiah Thomas Secondary School have a wide range of reading available in the Literacy Centre—plus reference books and materials in the school library.
Isaiah Thomas Secondary School
3,600 Books, from Young-Adult Fiction to Information-Packed Fact Books.
The academic requirements for secondary school education are far more demanding than that of primary school. Thus the school library must serve a wide range of needs and reading skill levels, and must provide information-packed "fact books," essentially research materials, to help students grow their knowledge and pass examinations. When Jerome Bardouille, the Principal of Isaiah Thomas Secondary School, approached Hands a few years ago with the dream of creating a Literacy Center at the school, the mission was to provide the 602 students with the various tools they needed. With the completion of the Literacy Centre the school gained a great many chapter books
ITSS Principal Jerome Bardouille and Ms. Sandra Roberts, Head of the English Department
and young-adult fiction books; with the recent renovation of the school's library (located in a separate room),the supply of reference and "fact books" was greatly increased. All of this was made possible by the rock-solid support of the Principal and the school's teachers, particularly Ms. Sandra Roberts, head of the English department. Under Ms. Roberts' guidance, many of the school's teachers and students spent weekends and vacation time cataloguing and organizing the library to get it up and running — and the teachers also spend time each week assisting the students and manning the book check-out desk. A high level of commitment from the school staff is essential to maintaining not only the school's library but the literacy levels of the students, and the Principal and teachers at ITSS have demonstrated a true passion for and dedication to literacy.
Students with Mrs. Mary Robinson, the Grade 3 teacher in charge of the library, cheer the Hands Literacy Award presented to Penville Primary School.
Penville Primary School
A Bridge Between Cultures. Located at the extreme northeast tip of Dominica, about as remote from the capital city of Roseau as you can get, Penville Primary School is becoming an important bridge between the area's Kweyol culture and standard English for its 101 students. Principal Euella Joseph has been working with Hands Across the Sea for several years nowto make the school's library a place where students can soak up facts about the wider world and also float in pleasure-reading mind-stretchers, from Junie B. Jones to Spongebob Squarepants. At the school's request, Hands sent books targeted to the interests of boys, everything from cars to dinosaurs to superheroes, all with exciting illustrations, and the strategy is working: boys at the school are avid readers now. They're catching up to the girls! Principal Joseph's staff (Grade 3 teacher Mary Robinson is in charge of the library) are equally dedicated to raising the literacy levels of their students. We see a great future for the Penville Primary School library — and thus a great future for the school's students.
DOMINICA Honorable Mentions: Clifton Primary School • Paix Bouche Primary School • Petit Savanne Primary School • Salisbury Primary School • Tete Morne Primary School
Lights! Camera! Literacy! The St. Lucia press turned out to cover Principal Etienne and members of the Richfond Primary "Boys Only" (girls have joined, too!) reading club.
Richfond Combined School
Bringing In the Community. A school cannot thrive by itself; to give the best education possible to its students, a school must reach out to the parents and become an integral part of the local community. At Richfond Combined School Mrs. Sonjane Etienne, the Principal, and Mrs. Leticia Regis, the Remedial Reading teacher, have raised literacy levels of the students by raising the level of awareness and participation of students' families. Creative initiatives, such as Richfond Combined's "Reading Extravaganza," brings parents and families to an open-air get-together to spotlight the benefits of reading and sharing books at home. The school's "Bedtime Stories" program brings out families in their pajamas to discover the joy of reading aloud to their children (it's also a good way to lull the kids to sleep!). And now, after several years of the initiatives, the community is onboard with literacy. Meanwhile, back at the school, because Richfond Combined does not have available space for a school library, the staff (led by U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Aria Grabowski's efforts) has created well-stocked classroom libraries for every grade. Remedial Reading teacher Regis conducts a special "catch up" reading program just for boys — the program has proved so popular that the girls insisted on joining, too. Richfond Combined's dedication to books, reading, and the advancement of child literacy — and the effectiveness of their community outreach — make the school a shining example for others to follow.
Hooray! Students at Bonne Terre Prep celebrate their big win.
Bonne Terre Preparatory School
Volunteer Power! Every school needs volunteers. When parents step up and donate their time and energy by assisting teachers and students, every school becomes a better school. Such is the case at Bonne Terre Preparatory School where Staci Landwehr, a local parent, gives generously of her time, energy, and creativity to make the school library a truly special place. Over the past several years, Landwehr has worked with Hands Across the Sea to bring 1,150 new books into the school, and she has organized the library into an appealing and accessible resource for students. In addition, Landwehr holds weekly reading classes for every grade from K to Grade 6 in the library — she finds the time to do all of this, in addition to raising three boys of her own, because she believes that reading and literacy skills are absolutely vital to the advancement of a child. What makes this success story possible, of course, is that Landwehr has received the support and encouragement of Principal Jennifer Alexander and Bonne Terre's teaching and administrative staff. Because even with the best principal and teachers, every school needs community volunteers to help it become the best school it can be.
ST. LUCIA Honorable Mentions: Banse La Grace Combined School
• Belle Vue Combined School • Dennery Primary School
Corinth Government School's libary is the place to be, whether you're just starting out in Grade K or studying for your CPEA exam.
Corinth Government School
A Library that Serves Every Child in the School. The most effective primary school libraries are those which serve the entire school — from kindergarten to Grade 6, from remedial and reluctant readers to students preparing for the CPEA. Building upon the groundwork laid by U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Amanda Dombach and an infusion of 1,800 new books and 12 boxes of teaching resources (including educational games) from Hands, school Principal Joslyn Augustus and her staff have made sure that the library at Corinth Government School serves all of its 156 students. The library features a reading corner with a comfy rug for K to Grade 1 students, a reading table and chairs for Grades 2-4, and an area in the library stacks for higher grades who know just where to find their favorite Goosebumps or Junie B. Jones books. In addition there is a library committee at the school to ensure its ongoing sustainability and community volunteers come in to tutor remedial readers. (Jesmine McSween, a Youth Empowerment worker, and Rasheba Pierre are the librarians.) "Reading has improved since the advent of the library," says Principal Augustus. "And the children really love the books."
Organized for success: the library layout at Grenville Secondary creates areas for study and browsing, and features educational posters and student book-review areas.
Grenville Secondary School
This Is What a Dream Come True Looks Like. Two years ago, the school library at Grenville Secondary School did not exist. Back then, the room was in chaos — a tiny collection of moldy, outdated books crowded into a corner by a collection of "stuff," from broken desks and chairs to an ever-growing pile of cast-off junk. But school librarian Olivia Phillip, along with teachers from the English department and the school's literacy specialist, were determined to create a library for the school's 535 students. Their passion and commitment impressed us at Hands Across the Sea; we shipped the school nearly 1,400 new books as Phillip and her crew began repainting and organizing the library. The result is an outstanding borrowing library, both in terms of layout and organization and utilization by the students. An inner "ring" of waist-high shelving separates the study area from the browse-for-books aisles, grouped by subject matter and reading level, which encircles the room. The use of educational posters (such as those included with the DK Eyewitness series) helps create a learning atmosphere, and there are several initiatives which are engaging students, such as the popular "Write a Review!" area where students rate the books they've read. There's plenty of "books for boys" in the library, too. "We see an increase in the boys using the library because of the new books on interesting and appealing topics," says Olivia Phillip. Grenville Secondary School's new library is a tremendous boost for the school — a resource for teachers and students that will enable the pursuit of learning for many years to come.
GRENADA Honorable Mentions: Bonaire GovernmentSchool • Crochu Primary School • L'Esterre Rosary School (Carriacou) • Mac Donald College • Mt. Airy Young Readers Programme • St. Dominic's RC Primary School
At Cane End Government School, opening a new, exciting book is a passport to learning and adventure.
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Cane End Government School
A Special Place Where Children Can Soar. Reading is about more than grammar, sentences, and punctuation — reading is how children learn, how they find and travel to exciting places and stretch their minds with challenging new ideas — and a great school library becomes a sort of launching pad for children. At Cane End Government School the school library had been neglected for a long time, and literacy levels at the school were suffering as a result.But a couple of years ago the incoming Principal Ave-Maria Weekes-Stephens, with Literacy Coordinator Rouna Burke and U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Jessica Greathouse, decided that Cane End should have a first-class borrowing library. (Around this time the Mustique Charitable Trust gave literacy a great boost at the school by funding the creation of a Literacy Centre.) Principal Stephens, Literacy Coordinator Burke, and Peace Corps Volunteer Greathouse went to work creating a new library; they got new shelving, created a color-coded cataloging system and an easy-to-use check-out system, and they began training students to become Student Librarians — giving the children "ownership" of the library has been a key element of their plan. Hands Across the Sea fulfilled Cane End's Hands Wish List for the new library by shipping more than 1,200 great new books over a two-year period. And now the library is a succcess! The library is in near-constant use by Cane End's 135 students. And, just as important, the library is indeed a special place where children of every grade come to read, to learn, and to soar.
Students know that there's nothing like an exciting new book. It's even better when your school has a great lending library with thousands of cool books!
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Diamond Government School
It Took a Village, Working Together, to Make This Dream Come True.
Way back in 1995 Mrs. Sharon DeFrietas Hopson, a teacher at Diamond Government School, started the school's library and worked year after year to keep it going. In June of 2011, U. S. Peace Corps Volunteer Julie Mills organized the Diamond Government School Library Project and enlisted over two dozen members of the school (including former teachers), the Diamond Village community, local businesses, the Ministry of Education, and the local PTA to rejuvenate the school library. The project was extensive — from new paint to furniture and bookshelves, along with many hours of volunteer labor from members of the community — but in only 15 months the project was completed. The summary of the school's project overview states: "The Diamond Government School Library Project works with the school community to develop a library that promotes literacy development and a lifelong love of learning in children. The school seeks to create a library atmosphere that supports reading and learning, provokes the imagination, and promotes new ways of thinking. The project expands the role of the school library by providing a space for children to have class library time, library skills training, tutoring, and after-school homework assistance. The school created a library committee of parents, teachers, and community members to spearhead the library development effort. In the 2011-2012 school year, the committee worked tirelessly to raise funds for furniture, paint, and new books for the library. On September 20, 2012, the Diamond Government School Library opened its doors to its students and the Diamond Village Community." To read the rest of this informative, in-depth look at how it all happened, please click here: Diamond Government School Library Project
The library at Stephanie Browne Primary School is a magnet for students and all kinds of activities, from reading to writing to studying and working on class projects.
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Stephanie Browne Primary School
Making the School Library a Priority. Even before Lorette Coy-James became the Principal of Stephanie Browne Primary School (located on Union Island in the Grenadines), she created a library at the school — that's how strong her enduring commitment to literacy is. The library project was launched as part of Coy-James's practicum for her B.A. in Education from the University of the West Indies — that she chose to start a school library is a clue to her professional dedication to child literacy. She sustained the project and made it a focus and priority at her school. Over the years her energy and enthusiasm for sustaining the library has not flagged in spite of the redeployment of her Youth Empowerment (YES) worker. Recently, volunteers reorganized and categorized the library to make it easier to manage without a dedicated librarian. We are honoring this library for its sustainability through the six years we have been running Hands Across the Sea and for Lorette's commitment to literacy among her students as well as the adults in the Union Island community.
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES Honorable Mentions: Barrouallie Government School • Buccament Bay Secondary School • Buccament Government School • Chateaubelair Methodist Primary School • Fitz-Hughes Primary School
School spirit! Students at Tyrell Williams Primary School are enthusiastic and ready to read and learn.
ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
Tyrell Williams Primary School
Strong, Literacy-Focused Leadership. Ever since Hands Across the Sea began working with Tyrell Williams Primary School in 2009, we've been impressed with the dedicated-to-literacy leadership of Mr. Terrence Edwards, the Principal. With the assistance of two U. S. Peace Corps Volunteers a few years back, Mr. Edwards transformed an unused classroom into a borrowing school library that, these days, is packed with children. We sent the first Hands Wish List shipment of 1,700 books to the school in 2009/2010, and followed that up with 400 books in 2011/2012. After the Peace Corps Volunteers ended their service, we watched as the school library continued to sparkle under the guiding hand of Mr. Edwards. The library is now a vital part of the school; it's hard to imagine Tyrell Williams Primary School without it. "Our aim at the school," says Mr. Edwards, "is that every child who graduates from the school must not only be able to read, but be able to read at their grade level." Mr Edwards notes that because most of the children in this rural community do not have books at home and the village does not have a public library, the school library is a crucial element in raising the literacy level of children at the school. And with the strong, literacy-focused leadership of Terrence Edwards, we see a long and bright future for the vibrant school library — and the students! — at Tyrell Williams Primary School.
At Elizabeth Pemberton Primary School, energy and dedication have turned an empty room into a valuable asset for students and teachers.
ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
Elizabeth Pemberton Primary School
Turning an Empty Space into a Flourishing Library.Call it a Caribbean conundrum. Often times, when a new school is built, the shining, modern library space comes with a tiled floor, plenty of bookshelves and tables and chairs, air-conditioning, an array of audio/visual equipment and computers, and even a check-out desk. But one important thing is missing: books. A book-less library was the situation that Sharon Liburd, the school Librarian, was faced with when we sent the first shipment of 1,600 books to Elizabeth Pemberton Primary School as part of the 2009/2010 Hands Wish Lists. Librarian Liburd made great use of the books, attracting a growing number of students into the library, so we shipped another 600 books in 2011/2012. We watched as the library continued to improve every year, thanks to Sharon Liburd's energy and dedication, and also thanks to a generous grant from UNESCO that brought e-books, a TV, digital projector, and a laminating machine to the space. Now the library is serving as a model for other schools on Nevis to follow. Of course, not every school will start out with a new, modern facility, but it's worth noting that at Elizabeth Pemberton Primary School the focus is staying on the most important parts of a library: books, reading, and literacy.
ST. KITTS & NEVIS Honorable Mentions: Beach Allen Primary School (St. Kitts) • Cayon Primary School (St. Kitts) • Dr. William Connor Primary School (St. Kitts) • Ivor Walters Primary School (Nevis ) • Saddlers Secondary School (St. Kitts) • St. Thomas Primary School (Nevis) • Violet O. Jeffers-Nicholls Primary School (Nevis)