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.
Bonair Government School's libary is a welcoming, educational environment for children — a place where students in every grade can improve their reading skills.
Bonair Government School
A Serious Commitment to Child Literacy. By creating an enduring, vibrant borrowing library that serves every student, Principal Terry Francis, Literacy Coordinator Theresa Ganpot, and all the teachers and staff have demonstrated an inspiring commitment to raising child literacy levels at Bonair Government School. Hands Across the Sea has been working with Bonair Government School since 2011, and it's been very exciting for us to witness firsthand how Francis, Ganpot, and staff members have cultivated a flourishing environment of reading and literacy at the school. Principal Francis, because he believes in the life-changing power of reading and literacy skills, has made the library a priority at his school. Literacy Coordinator Ganpot has worked tirelessly to rejuvenate the existing library, culling the shelves of old, inappropriate books (many of them are library discards from other donation agencies) to make way for new books from Hands Across the Sea. The result is a school library that is welcoming, fun, and highly educational for the students — children at Bonair Government School are reading more, and their reading scores are going up. Take, for example, Bonair Government School student Dean Bedeau, who was the first boy ever to win the recent Courts OECS Reading Competition. Like many other students at the school, Dean Bedeau loves to read. And there's no better place to find great books and a great environment for reading than in the school library. Bonair Government School, a 2013/2014 Hands Wish Lists project, was adopted by the Scotiabank Bright Future program.
The library at Chateaubelair Methodist Primary School serves students in every grade level, and also functions as a valubable resource for teachers.
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Chateaubelair Methodist Primary School
From Storeroom to School Library. Back in 2010, Chateaubelair Methodist Primary School didn't really have a library. There was a large storeroom, about the size of a double classroom, and it was mostly filled with old furniture and boxes of "stuff," and along the wall stood a few bookshelves half full of various books, most of which were old and unappealing to students. The collection of reading books didn't come close to serving the school's 275 students. That's when Mrs. Edmie Charles, the school's Principal, and U. S. Peace Corps Volunteers Stephanie Kistner, followed by Camille Aragon (both now returned), decided to create a borrowing library full of great books. Principal Charles, her Peace Corps partners, and a crew of school staff (including Deputy Principal Ms. Lorraine Matthews and Literacy Coordinator Ms. Melrose George) and volunteers began cleaning out and painting the space, and they increased the number of bookshelves and tables and chairs. Then they contacted Hands Across the Sea for a book donation (we shipped 1,300 books to the school) and implemented a borrowing program. And then the library was opened, and very quickly it became the center of literacy at the school.
It's a great thing to create and open a new library, of course, but perhaps the real measure of dedication to literacy comes in maintaining and improving the library year after year, which is what Principal Charles and her staff have done. When U. S. Peace Corps Volunteer Camille Aragon returned to the States in 2012, the library continued to be timetabled, even without a librarian; teachers stepped up to man the library daily (now they have the help of YES Librarian Ms. Kevor Glasgow), keeping it accessible to the students. These days, it's hard to imagine the school without its well-stocked, always-bustling library. "We are grateful for our library," says Principal Charles. "If we didn't have a library it would be difficult for Grade 6 students to do their book reports. A lot of interest has been generated in reading, and our students have learned to appreciate and take care of the books." At Chateaubelair Methodist Primary School, books and reading and literacy are here to stay.
Spring Village Methodist Primary School's library is a great space — lots and lots of shelves, a tiled floor, good ventilation. All the library needs is some reading tables and chairs — and lots and lots of great new, truly awesome books!
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Spring Village Methodist Primary School
A Drive to Develop a Truly Great School Library. Congratulations to Spring Village Methodist Primary School! When told of the good news, Mrs. Carol Edwards, the Principal, said,"We are grateful for the Hands Literacy Award because we've been working very hard to improve the library. With the donation of books we've seen children progress in their reading. We are very proud of our children and the strides they've made." There's a lot more credit that Principal Edwards could have given herself and her staff, but she's quite a modest person. So we'll fill in the background of the story. The school's library was launched with the help of U. S. Peace Corps Volunteer Jennifer Ewart back in 2011. Hands Across the Sea shipped 800 books to the school after school staff and Ewart had cleaned out the shelves, culled the old books, arranged the remaining appropriate and relevant children's books using a color-coded system, and officially opened the library. Since then the library has been an active place, with children taking out books, plenty of parental involvement in the commitment to reading, and a concerted effort by school staff to coach and mentor the struggling readers. Spring Village Methodist Primary School has demonstrated a passionate commitment to literacy, to bringing up the slower readers to the appropriate reading level, to encouraging a love of books. We are rewarding the school with the Hands Literacy Award ($2,000 worth of new books or literacy resources of their choice) because they have achieved a great deal with their existing resources, and they've made sure that the books on their shelves are enticing and appealing to their students. We look forward to providing them with new books for Grades K-2, non-fiction books on all subject areas, chapter books, mysteries, and series books to hook kids on reading. Now's the time to help fill up those empty shelves!
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES Honorable Mentions: Buccament Bay Secondary School • Cane End Government School • Diamond Government School • Mammy Joy's Reading Club • Mary Hutchinson Primary School • Sandy Bay Primary School • St. Clair Dacon Secondary School
These boys are readers! The arrival of great new books at Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School (Campus A) sparked a big interest in reading, as well as improvements in writing and dramatization skills.
Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School (Campus A)
Shining the Light of Literacy. "The books in our library were so old, sometimes I thought we were teaching only history!" says Dr. Cadelia Ambrose, the Principal of Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School (Campus A). Then 390 great new books, part of our 2012/2013 Hands Wish Lists shipment, arrived. "Thanks to the influx of new books the students are writing poems and short stories, and dramatizing them. So the presence of the books has not only improved their reading skills, but their writing and dramatization skills have benefitted."
This school library is a success story with a bright future. At present, teachers bring their classes to the library; there are about 30 students in the library every day at lunchtime; all the library helpers are boys; and the check-out system is computerized. And, according to Miss Jeanne Lawrence, the Learning Resource Center Manager/Librarian, the students gravitate only toward the new books. Besides being brand new, the books that Hands sent are relevant, age-appropriate, and nearly irresistible. How irresistible? One student, Dmitri Valmont, has won the school's Most Avid Reader competition. He's read every book that Hands has donated — and he asks to borrow about ten books every day. The main thing the library needs is a lot more books (Miss Lawrence has asked for an influx of graphic novels, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Goosebumps). Determined to continue spreading the benefits of literacy even further, Principal Ambrose is encouraging reading in other languages, such as French and Spanish. And she is teaching a class in Mandarin at the school — one of the Form 1 students recently won a prize for writing a poem in Mandarin.
Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School (Campus A) will be moving to a new location in September 2014, taking over the former Vieux Fort Technical School, and plans call for expanding from Forms 1 and 2 into a full five-year secondary school with a technical/vocational component. At Hands we believe that as Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School (Campus A) grows, the school's spotlight on literacy will shine even brighter and wider.
ST. LUCIA Honorable Mentions: Babonneau Secondary School • Dennery Primary School • Laborie RC Girls Primary School • Richfond Combined School
Now here's a room to read! The dazzling school library at St. Thomas' Primary School has it all: a soaring mural of storybook characters; low, child-friendly shelving; stuffed animals in the kindergarten section; a rug and pillows; and a teachers' section.
ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
St. Thomas' Primary School
Literacy at the Heart of the School and the Community. Lucky students! Lucky Nevis! St. Thomas' Primary School has one of the most child-friendly, well-organized, vibrant school libraries we've seen, and high praise goes to the passion and creativity of the Librarian, Miss Julitta Paris (photo, right). Every element is tuned to perfection, from the captivating mural to the simple and efficient book check-out system to the color-coded categorization and eye-catching presentation of the books. Also, by requiring that each student read and sign their name to a "Library Citizenship" card, Miss Paris has underscored the benefits and responsibilities of using the school library. (There's a Library Citizenship card for parents, too, who wish to borrow books for themselves or on behalf of their Kindergartners.) The effects of this dynamic library on the school have ranged from more children borrowing books to exploring other exciting avenues of literacy (such as students writing and reading their own poetry) to literacy-themed, fun outdoor activities (see the "Literacy Games: Make Your Library Come Alive" section of the Hands Library Manual for Primary Schools).
The island of Nevis, in fact, is leading the way in the Eastern Caribbean in terms of great school libraries and a determined focus on books and reading. Thanks in large part to the vision of Sonita Daniel, the retired Director at the Nevis Library Service, and Marva Roberts, Projects Officer at the Nevis Library Service (now Librarian at Charlestown Secondary School), every school on Nevis has a librarian dedicated not only to the school library but to promoting literacy in the school community.
During each school term, all the Teacher/Librarians on the island hold three major community-oriented activities — Blanket Night, Family Book Feud, and Book Fair (you can read the description of these programs or download the Word document here: NEVIS Teacher-Librarians Community Activities). The community activities are geared toward "strengthening family ties in the community; promoting reading and developing a healthy reading environment in the homes; helping children and families to develop a love and appreciation for reading and books; demonstrating to parents how they can engage their children at home; sharing with parents the benefits of reading at home and to their children; and developing lifelong readers and members of the library."
ST. KITTS AND NEVIS Honorable Mentions: Charlestown Secondary School (Nevis) • Elizabeth Pemberton Primary School (Nevis) • Irishtown Primary School (St. Kitts) • St. Paul's Primary School (St. Kitts) • Tyrell Williams Primary School (St. Kitts)
Grade 5/6 teacher and librarian Mrs. Michiyo Robinson with students in New Winthorpes Primary School's "small space, big impact" library, which features well-organized shelves and a very cool literacy mural on the door.
New Winthorpes Primary School
Testament to a Team Effort. Hands Across the Sea has helped over 200 primary and secondary schools create or rejuvenate their libraries, and any time an administrator says that their school wants a library but doesn't have space for one, we say two words: "New Winthropes." Then we tell them about the library and literacy success story at New Winthorpes Primary School, because not only has Principal Whitfield Browne and his school staff made literacy a priority they have created a vibrant borrowing library in a space so small that few would consider it possible: the school's pump room. "The library is our treasure" says Principal Browne. Working together, Grade 6 teacher Ms. Anthea Anthony and U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Norma-Jean Arey turned the pump room, which is about the size of a storage closet, into a sunny, child-friendly space where students can browse and borrow their favorite book. Anthony and Arey asked Hands for new books for the library, and thus far the school has received 650 great new books, thanks to the Mill Reef Fund and Hands Across the Sea's 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 Hands Wish Lists shipments.
The result of the new library and new books has been dramatic. Grade 5/6 maths and science teacher Mrs. Michiyo Robinson is now in charge of the library and reports that the boys, who at most schools are less interested that the girls in reading books, are excited about the graphic novels and "fact books" about animals, cars, computers, and robots. Friday is the official library day at the school (children are allowed to borrow three books at a time), and students can pass by the library and borrow books at other times, too. The library at New Winthorpes Primary School proves that the most important requirement for a library is not space, but passion on the part of the Principal and the staff.
ANTIGUA Honorable Mentions: Five Islands Primary School • Irene B. Williams Secondary School • Kids Unlimited • Old Road Primary School • Project Hope • St. John's Lutheran School • St. Mary's Secondary School • Willikies Primary School
Castle Bruce Secondary School students celebrate with Principal Octavia Alfred.
Castle Bruce Secondary School
Never Give Up! One thing you can say about Principal Octavia Alfred, Head of English Department Vernilla Nation, and the staff of Castle Bruce Secondary School: they never give up. For years, their dream has been to create a great school library, but lack of funding for new books and renovation of the school's run-down library room (let's not talk about the hole in the floor—or the rain coming in through the old-and-falling-apart windows!) meant that a great library seemed destined to remain in the "someday" category. But they never gave up trying to make it happen, making improvements to the library whenever possible. A few years back, an energetic U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, Judy Joyce, teamed up with Vernilla to paint the library room, and patch the floor. Judy contacted Hands Across the Sea, and we sent 1,200 books as part of the 2011-2012 Hands Wish Lists shipment, and another 400 books in the 2013-2014 shipment. Then, as part of an "Education for Better" grant from the Western Union Foundation and H. H. V. Whitchurch & Co., Ltd., the Dominica agent for Western Union, air-conditioning and new windows were installed in the library. The students have voted with their feet—these days the library is a popular place. With their win of the 2013-2014 Hands Literacy Award for Dominica, the school will gain an additional U.S. $2,000 of new books. At Hands we celebrate the never-give-up spirit of Castle Bruce Secondary School students and staff, and look forward to supporting them in the years ahead.
DOMINICA Honorable Mentions: Calibishie Primary School • Delices Primary School • Morne Jaune Primary School • Tete Morne Primary School • Woodford Hill Primary School