When COVID-19 hit Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada, Ministries of Education scrambled to ramp up online learning. And at Hands we wrestled with a dilemma. With schools and school libraries closed to students, how could we get new amazing books from Hands out of the school libraries and back into hands of children?
We feared that, without books to read—and especially for families without internet connectivity or suitable devices—Caribbean children would lose ground on the literacy gains they’ve made. With reports from our Hands Literacy Links—grassroots research and queries to educators—we are working on a solution: The Hands Takeaway Books Program.
For school principals who are ready to participate, students can continue to borrow and return books from school libraries that Hands helped create or rejuvenate. Some schools will allow library hours under safe, controlled conditions. Other schools will place library books, selected by teachers for their students, into homework packets that parents pick up at the school gate.
When parents bring back the envelope of books to pick up another homework packet with more books, the returned books will be placed in “quarantine boxes” for 72 hours before being recirculated (the virus can live a maximum of 24 hours on cardboard). Coronavirus health protocols will be strictly observed during every step of the operation. And our Hands Literacy Links are helping school principals get their school’s book borrowing underway. From its let’s-see-how-it-goes beginnings, the Takeaway Books Program is being adopted in more school districts. We don’t know whether schools will reopen in September, but the Takeaway Books Program is ready if needed.
In the meantime, many Caribbean children will once again be pleasure-reading for fun and fluency—comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, pronunciation, analytical thinking. Our wish is that Caribbean children and parents, during these self-isolating and lockdown days, will enjoy spending time together reading. In times of crisis and an uncertain future, there is just nothing better than holding a book, an old friend, in your hands.
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