Inspiring a New Generation of Readers in Nevis

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Hands Across the Sea provides so much more than books.  We create opportunity and inspire communities.  At Joycelyn Liburd Primary School (JLPS) in Nevis, the Hands Across the Sea library is having an impact across the entire school because of the dedication of a few inspired individuals.

Palsy Wilkin, Hands’ Literacy Link in Nevis, says the atmosphere here has been “transformed” by her work with a Grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Roxanne Webbe, who saw the potential in enhancing the library experience for her students.  Like many schools during the pandemic, JLPS had been closed for an extended period and the Hands Across the Sea library space was being used as storage while the kids were studying remotely.

Although the children were still able to resume borrowing books upon returning to school in person, Palsy and Mrs. Webbe knew there was still untapped potential behind the reading and lending experience.  After some coordination, Palsy and Mrs. Webbe worked with the school administration to give the library a prominent new space and incorporate the books into other enhanced learning activities for the class. What began as a way to foster a love of reading with a single Garde 5 class quickly spread across the entire school; the energy and enthusiasm for reading has become infectious.

According to Ms.Barbara Hendrickson, principal of JLPS, “we currently have a more spacious room that we can own as the Library. What a transformation that has caused! The school librarian can now host classes and have lessons in that space. Students are involved in borrowing books and are even hiding them in their tables to read during the classroom lessons. Some students are seizing the opportunity to read during lunch break. That is awesome because there are so many other benefits to be derived from reading. In the new curriculum for Grade 5, emphasis was placed on providing students with the opportunity to be exposed to different genres of books. The library is being used to promote this.”

Mrs. Webbe shares, “my most profound and heartwarming experience is seeing one of my struggling readers, selecting a book of her interest and reading ability, reading it, telling about it, and returning it well ahead of return date just so she can borrow another and another. She was being encouraged by her mom, who made the time to read with her and shows the interest in seeing her daughter reading skills improved. Generally, children are seen reading during recess, in their classrooms, in the staircases and even standing in the corridors. Our students have been aroused to reading and personally I seek to spur them on and affect positive change in our culture of reading, even as I expect to see much improvement in the literacy level of our students.”

“All of the students are benefitting from the changes we made to the library and reading programs,” says Palsy. “There is so much pride in what we have done, that students are coming to the library during their free time to look for new books. This hasn’t happened here before.  Interest in reading has increased greatly.”  The teachers and administrators are working closely with Palsy to ensure the books are being incorporated into the curriculum across all grades after the excitement from the Grade 5 class was so evident. When asked what being a part of the transformation at Joycelyn Liburd Primary School meant to Palsy, she simply replied, “It’s everything.  It is my passion.”

Ms. Hendrickson is incredibly grateful for the contribution from Palsy and Hands Across the Sea. “We record appreciation to Mrs. Palsy Wilkin, Literacy Link for Hands Across the Sea, whose persistence has borne fruits. She came on board and provided the impetus to get the space allocated for the library up and running. She visits often and has worked along with the Librarian , Miss Andrea Harrigan, to sort and shelve the books and give timely interventions. Additionally, she has provided a wealth of information and suggestions to the staff as a whole, to make this a viable and sustainable enterprise.”

Hands Across the Sea makes a difference with children, schools, and communities each day based on the principle that children have the basic right to read.  We are thankful to have a supportive community that shares our passion for literacy and values a commitment to changing the landscape of childhood literacy.


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