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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: Golden Grove Primary School • J.T. Ambrose Primary School • Liberta Primary School • Olivia David Primary School • T. N. Kirnon 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: Bagatelle Primary School • Bense Primary School • Clifton Primary School • Isaiah Thomas Secondary School • Massacre-Canefield 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: Anse-La-Raye Primary School • Beanefield Comprehensive Secondary School • Desruisseaux RC Combined School • Bexon Primary School • Bouton RC Combined School • Forestiere Methodist Combined School • Grace RC Combined School • L'Abayee SDA Primary School • Roblot Combined School • Vide Bouteille Primary 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: Anse-La-Raye Primary School • Beanefield Comprehensive Secondary School • Desruisseaux RC Combined School • Bexon Primary School • Bouton RC Combined School • Forestiere Methodist Combined School • Grace RC Combined School • L'Abayee SDA Primary School • Roblot Combined School • Vide Bouteille Primary School
At C. W. Prescod Primary School, the commitment to books, reading, the school library, and the advancement of child literacy is strong and getting stronger.
C. W. Prescod Primary School
Big School. Big Appetite for Books. With 760 children from Grade K to Grade 6, C. W. Prescod Primary School, located in the busy urban heart of Kingstown, the capital city of St. Vincent, this school is a busy, busy, busy place. But it also has a big and growing appetite for reading. After overcoming physical challenges (pigeons in the rafters, termites in the bookshelves) a few years back, the library is charging along, reports Yvette Pompey, one of the Hands Literacy Links for the island.

“This year, termites have staged another attack on the bookshelves, but the school purchased replacement materials and the government is working on the repairs” says Yvette. “The school’s longtime librarian, Ms. Noella Duncan, has migrated to the U.S. but she has trained another young lady, Zoriah Cato, as a part-time librarian. We now have 25 children trained as Student Librarians, and the Principal is planning to re-launch the new, improved library when school reopens in September.

“The students and teachers at this school have really embraced the library. All classes are coming to the library with their teachers to engage in literacy activities and to borrow books. The borrowing is improving steadily.”

Yvette also notes that, of the Hands 11 measurement points for a successful library, C.W. Prescod is a resounding “Yes!” to every one of them:

1.  Are all classes coming to the library weekly?
2.  Are all classes recording the number of books borrowed weekly?
3.  Is the book check out and check in system working?
4.  Has the library team had sufficient training with the Hands Library Manual and the Hands Teachers Resource Guide to the Library (Grades K-3)?
5.  Are the class teachers requesting/seeking information making use of the librarians to find books that would support their lessons in the classroom?
6.  Has the library team shared with teachers and students what is available in the library through book displays, conversations, read-alouds, library activities, and/or reading contests?
7.  Does the library have inviting places for children and teachers to sit and read?
8.  Does the school have an active Wish List that teachers and students can add to for books they would like to see in the library in the future?
9.  Does the school have a Student Librarian program?
10. Is the library accessible for teachers and students to spend time in the library during break times and lunch time?
11. Has the school involved the students’ parents in the use of the library?
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES Honorable Mentions: Bequia Anglican Primary School • Brighton Methodist School • Diamond Government School • Dr. J.P. Eustace Memorial Secondary School • Fancy Government School • Layou Government School • Leeward District SDA Primary School • New Grounds Primary School • North Union Secondary School • Tourama Government School
The library at Dr. William Connor Primary School is a very social, rewarding place to spend time, no matter what your grade level and reading interest..
Dr. William Connor Primary School
Shining Star. The library at Dr. William Connor Primary School, a busy urban school in Basseterre, the capital city of St. Kitts, has been functioning well for several years now: a large, well-organized space, the collection arranged artfully, with book covers facing out, and an embrace of reading by many of the school’s 331 Grade K to Grade 6 students. But in the last year or so, a star has been born at the library: Lisa Pringle, the Librarian. Lisa has further energized the library and students with her creative themes and programs.

Notes Hands Literacy Link Heidi Fagerberg, “Dr. William Connor Primary school has shined this year. All the support from the Principal making the library a priority, to the librarian making the library the place to be, to the teacher's commitment to bringing the children to library time and for the ongoing support from Library Services, Petrine Clarke and her staff, as well as the parents supporting the lending program and making sure their children take care of the books and return them. It takes a village to raise a child and Dr. William Connor Primary is doing just that with their library.

"There has been an increase in borrowing in the past two school years. Dr. William Connor provided input as we piloted a borrowing record tally sheet to use. It has been one of the first schools to have term comparisons and they show increased borrowing numbers, which is a great sign of library development. Lisa Pringle, the teacher-librarian, has outdone herself, working tirelessly outside of school terms to prepare the library space and activities. I have enjoyed helping her strive for greatness. From monthly changes in displays that encourage teachers and children to come to the library, to interactive read alouds and reading competitions with unique prize-giving techniques, to sharing with other schools her ideas and her materials. She continues to try new things to inspire a love of reading in the little ones.

"One of the things we are working on at the school is creating an intrinsic motivation to read by providing books that children really want to read. But we are also trying to reach reluctant readers with extrinsic motivation using positive reinforcement techniques and incentives. For example, Lisa has filled 200 balls with M&Ms as reading prizes—she has hung the M&Ms balls—the motivation!—from the library ceiling.

“Lisa has also created a grab bag (also known as a dip bag) with 100 lines/excerpts from books in the library written on slips of papers. Children will dip and pick a paper and if they successfully are able to read the excerpt, they get to cut down an M&Ms ball. This will not only let them practice their reading skills, but share with them a book excerpt they may not know about from the library. Lisa also has six 24-inch balls as prizes for the children who read the most books in the literacy week of activities, and two five-foot balls for children for overall exemplary library behavior—showing readiness, interest, attendance, proper care of books, returned books on time, and more.

“Lisa has been modeling her methods and sharing best practices, many adapted from the Hands Teachers Resource Guide to the Library (Grades K-3), with library staff at every primary school across St. Kitts. Because she is so dedicated and creative, and is getting support from Ministry of Education, her principal, the teachers, parents, and us at Hands Across the Sea, she is a peer mentor and a shining star.”
ST. KITTS AND NEVIS Honorable Mentions: Charlestown Primary School • Dieppe Bay Primary School • Dieppe Bay Primary School • Sandy Point Primary School • St. Paul's Primary School
The library at St. Mary's Primary School is large and filled with a wide range of kid-grabbing titles, from reference to nonfiction to graphic novels and much more.
St. Mary's RC Primary School
Yes, We Love Our Library! St. Mary’s RC Primary School, a medium-size rural school in the mountainous middle of Grenada, has 251 students. And thanks to a focus on books, reading, and the school library by the school’s Principal, librarian, teachers, and the Hands Literacy Link for the school, Bernadette John, nearly all of the students love the library. That, folks, is one way that Hands measures success. The library is fully functional, staffed with a committed and dedicated librarian. An updated library schedule ensures that all classes from Pre-School to Grade 6 visit the library; borrowing records are kept. The school has a wide range of literacy programs and activities, including a remedial reading class, which currently has ten boys from Grades 4 and 5. This class is conducted in the library space because the staff believes that the atmosphere will create a greater love for books among those students.

Hands Literacy Link Bernadette John, who works hands-on with school staff, says it best. “As the Literacy Link for St. Mary’s RC Primary, I have witnessed the students’ love for the library. They love visiting the library, not only to check out and check in books, but also to enjoy library activities facilitated either by the librarian or a class teacher. Currently, there are six Student Librarians; they perform their daily tasks with pride and confidence.

“The school boasts of many literacy activities, all of which complement the functions of the library. For example, Reading Carnival, Poetry and Reading competitions among grades, Departmental Banner competition, House Quizzes, Language Buzz, Book reports, and Career Days. Parents are on board with the school’s literacy plans too. At Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meetings, parents are always reminded to encourage their children to borrow at least one book per week. There was also an Open Day for parents to visit the school—and a visit to the library was mandatory.

"At the community level, students from St. Mary’s R.C. School read the scripture passages during both school and Sunday Masses. Based on all these reasons, St. Mary’s RC Primary School is a deserving winner of the 2019-2020 Hands Across the Sea Literacy Award for Grenada.”
GRENADA Honorable Mentions: Beaulieu Primary School • Grand Roy Government School • Florida Government School • Grenada Boys Secondary School • Hillsborough Secondary School • Limes Government Pre-School • St. Giles Anglican School • St. Rose Modern Secondary School • Uganda Martyrs Catholic School
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