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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, 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 poetry and writing groups; library infrastructure improvements; involvement by community members.
Celebrate the success! Three-quarters of the student population of Pares Primary School are active members of the library, which makes Principal Lois Drew (at left) very happy.
Pares Primary School
Reaching Out to Parents. Wow! The lending library at Pares Primary School (120 students, Grades K to 6) is a success! The library space is modest in size, but the reach is wide and deep: the school has a Student Librarian program, and 75% of the student population are active members of the library. “The library has expanded the students’ view of the world around them,” says Principal Lois Drew (at left in photo). “For students who might not have access to enough books to satisfy their hunger for reading, the school library satiates this need. As someone who is addicted to reading, I am delighted that we have a successful school library at Pares Primary.”

Central to the library’s success is the Librarian, Miss Verlyn Hector, who in addition to encouraging students to read and borrow books, and helping teachers to utilize library resources in their lesson, has reached out to parents and community members to broaden the impact of the library. At Pares Primary School, reading success extends beyond the school and into the homes of the students.
ANTIGUA Honorable Mentions: Charlesworth T. Samuel John Hughes Primary School • Ottos Comprehensive Secondary School • T. N. Kirnon Primary School • Willikies Primary School

Hurricane Maria, meet the Comeback Kids of Christian Union. Here, Student Librarians and Principal Brenda George (right) celebrate their latest achievement.
Christian Union Primary School
The Comeback Kids. "When Hurricane Maria hit our school, the storm took everything," remembers Principal Brenda George. "Our library was left with nothing—not a single book!" Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm with 160-mile-per hour winds and a firehose of horizontal rain, smashed into Dominica on September 18, 2017. It quickly peeled away the tin roof of the Christian Union Primary School library, located on the top floor, and vacuumed out the contents of the room. The rest of the school, of course, suffered greatly as well; the winds exploded a standalone classroom block, leaving only studs of the concrete-block foundation. And the school's classrooms were water-blasted when doors and windows were smashed. Picking themselves up after the storm, staff and students began the long road to rebuilding.

"The children have contributed greatly to our school's recovery," says Principal George. "They are so good! They love books and reading, and our Student Librarians have made the library a special part of the school." The newly-refurbished library, with jazzy paint and eye-catching book displays, is attracting students every day (each class is timetabled for library visits). Book borrowing is strong and steady. Hands Literacy Link Giselle Laurent has been hands-on with Christian Union Primary, helping to speed the recovery. School staffers Kizzy Charles and Vernella Henderson are fired-up promoters and sustainers of the library.

The school has come a long way since the hurricane, but there are still challenges to address—the loss of the standalone classroom block means that classes are being held in the cafeteria until the classroom is someday rebuilt. But if you visit Christian Union Primary School you'll find optimism and excitement. These are the comeback kids!
DOMINICA Honorable Mentions: Bense Primary School • Coulibistrie Primary School • Giraudel Primary School • Isaiah Thomas Secondary School • Newtown Primary School • Penville Primary School • Roosevelt Douglas Primary School • Woodford Hill Primary School