February 14th, 2017 -- The co-founders of Hands Across the Sea, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to raising the literacy levels of Caribbean children, are in the federation interacting with schools and education officials, as they deepen their long-term relationship with St. Kitts and Nevis.
The organization is about 10 years old and has been affiliated with St. Kitts and Nevis for about eight years.
Harriet Linskey is co-founder and executive director of Hands Across the Sea. She indicated that the organization operate in most of the OECS member countries, providing assistance in reading for improved literacy.
She said, “Our goal is to improve children’s literacy in St. Kitts and Nevis and across the OECS countries. We do that by sending great new books to schools, both primary and secondary, creating or rejuvenating lending libraries, then following-up with support and on-going training to sustain the libraries.”
Part of their commitment is to training teachers and students on how to manage and sustain libraries on their own using a very simple check-out system; a very simple categorization system and a very easy way for a library to lend books and return books based on having children involved.
It has been a cause in which the Christophe Harbour Foundation has contributed significantly over the years, she said, to the activities of Hands Across the Sea in St. Kitts and Nevis, thus impacting the quality of assistance provided to the school libraries.
Harriet believes literacy is a vital tool of education, and that’s where the organization can assist. “Literacy is still an issue in St. Kitts and Nevis, and one of the reasons why literacy is still an issue, in terms of fluent readers and fluent writers, is because there is a lack of resources,” Harriet said, adding, “So the part that we play is to ship down brand new books that are culturally and age appropriate, as well as relevant and exciting.”
According to the Hands Across the Sea Executive Director, if you can get great material in front of children, they will read. If you don't have good material; if you don't have anything for them to read, they will not improve their academic abilities.
Tom Linskey is a co-founder and director of marketing for Hands Across the Sea. He spoke of his experience and his observations, especially in relation to the donation of books to libraries.
He said, “It’s our observation that the children are starved for exciting, current, culture relevant reading material. There has been decades of what is called ‘donation dumping’. Well-meaning people send down used books, inappropriate books - romance, spy novels, 30-year-old encyclopedia - thinking they are doing a good thing. The schools have become inundated with such material, but often, it is the only material they have, so they are reluctant to throw it away, but the children are not interested in those books.”
Tom explained that the books that Hands Across the Sea send we down are new, and, importantly, have been requested by the principals, librarians and teachers of the primary and secondary schools in the federation.
He said further that once those books reach the school libraries here, the children are very excited and start reading. As a consequence of the selection system, he said, every school gets its own shipment of books based on what that school requested.
Tom believes that reading is the foundation of all learning. “If you don’t learn to read and read to learn early, then so many avenues in society are closed to you,” he commented.
over the past year, Heidi Fagerberg, the Hands Literacy Link for St. Kitts and Nevis, has been busy as the on-island liaison person. Speaking about here interactions during that time period, she said, “I have forged successful relationships the librarians, the principals and the teachers to go forward and help rejuvenate some of the libraries and help to ensure libraries are active and properly functioning.”
She observed the a majority of the schools embrace the libraries, but there are challenges.
She explained, “For some schools, it would be a bit difficult. There are a few schools that don’t have librarians, so it makes it tough for them. But, we’ve come up with some plans and solutions to create library teams where there are no librarians.”
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