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
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

We're back! Termites have been vanquished, a new Library Team is taking charge, and Laborie RC Boys students are more excited than ever about books, reading, and the library.
Laborie RC Boys Primary School
Termite Takedown. We’re not here to spin the fairy tale that everything is wonderful all the time at Caribbean school libraries. In fact, they are hit by plenty of challenges: fire, flood, tropical storms and hurricanes (Hurricane Maria, the Category 5 storm that tore through Dominica in Sept 2017, comes to mind), leaking roofs and windows, staff layoffs, and—most insidious of all—termites. Over the past few years, termites have been chewing their way through the wooden bookshelves—and the books—of the formerly-happy library at Laborie RC Boys Primary School. A termite infestation impacts a school library in all manner of ways: kids stop visiting the library, funds need to be somehow raised for a carpenter and replacement shelves, and morale takes a hit.

This school, nestled in the picture-postcard village of Laborie, on the sleepy southwest coast of St. Lucia, has not only claimed victory over the termites (new shelves of treated wood), but they have recovered their lost mojo. “The library space has been reorganized and a Library Team has been formed that includes a Grade 5 teacher, the reading teacher, U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Catherine Phillips, and a committed parent volunteer, Liza Fletcher,” reports Hands Literacy Link Sheila Serville. “Before their hard work in restarting the library, termites had destroyed a lot of the books and shelving, and the library was dirty and in desperate need of attention. In addition to cleaning and organizing, the Library Team reworked the checkout system, organized the book collection by genre, and decorated the space with a new invigorating theme.

“The ‘library rescue’ was successful. Students use the library effectively during their break periods. Reading Month is very busy at the school—the Book Worm activity and Fathers Reading to Students are among the highlights. Following that, it was Hats Off to Reading day at the school—another chance to celebrate books, reading, and the school library.” Going forward, members of the community are lending a lot of support and time to the school's library and literacy activities. Take that, termites!
ST. LUCIA Honorable Mentions: Desruisseaux RC Combined School • Grace RC Combined School • L'Abayee SDA Primary School • Micoud Primary School • Monchy RC Combined School • Piaye Combined School
Yay, Library Team! After the school library gained traction, yeah, the high school students kept their smartphones. But now they also pack a library book or two in their backpack.
Entrepot Secondary School
All Together Now. Generally, it’s a lot harder to create a successful lending library at a high school (Grades 7-11) than at a primary school (Grades K-6). In addition to the hormonal bombardment that hits teens, one challenge stands out: many high schoolers are addicted to their phones. Theoretically this wouldn’t be bad, in terms of literacy (“You can read on your phone!” many folks assure us), but most teens use their smartphones for games, social media, and music—all of which does little to advance the literacy skills and acquisition of useful knowledge crucial for their fast-approaching future as adults. So, it takes a concerted team effort by the school to turn around the smartphone brain drain.

At Entrepot Secondary School, a large urban school on the fringes of Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, the school staff and students have pulled together to create a vibrant, busy library. Principal Andrew Scott made it a priority. The already-busy Learning Resource Manager, Ms. Laurelle Eugene, championed fitting the library into one half of her room, taking space away from the computers, photocopiers, and more. The school built their own library shelves and tiled the floor. Ms. Oliviann Weekes, the local community librarian, donated her time and expertise, categorizing and organizing the book collection. Hands Literacy Link Clara Paul mobilized staff and students into a Library Team. Students put aside their phones and became avid readers of fiction, nonfiction, and reference.

“Ms. Eugene is extremely happy to see the increased level of interest by teachers and students in the library resources," notes Clara Paul. "Teachers use the ‘fact books' (on exam subjects as history, computers, science, and more) for research and lesson planning as well as to direct students who do not have their own personal copies. Teachers also read some of the novels while they sit in with their classes.” The library at Entrepot Secondary School is on the way to becoming an integral, important part of school life. Students are on the way to becoming readers and informed adults.
ST. LUCIA Honorable Mentions: Desruisseaux RC Combined School • Grace RC Combined School • L'Abayee SDA Primary School • Micoud Primary School • Monchy RC Combined School • Piaye Combined School