Filling Reading Gaps for Boys and Girls in the Eastern Caribbean

A reflection from Literacy Link Yvette Pompey of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines:


During her lifelong career as a primary school teacher, Yvette Pompey’s abiding passion was to lift the literacy level of every child in her class. At two schools where she taught, she helped establish school libraries, and she volunteered as a librarian during lunchtime and after school. She also sourced children’s books and magazines to establish or rejuvenate the libraries, and she established after-school and weekend reading clubs. Taken together, Yvette’s impact on child literacy has been significant, and rewarding.

After teaching at the primary level for 49 years, I became a Literacy Link for Hands Across the Sea. Let me tell you my experiences as a teacher in regard to reading and how Hands fills reading gaps for children in the Eastern Caribbean.

Early in my teaching career in the 1980s, I observed that boys and girls read at approximately the same grade level. Children were excited to learn how to read. As society changed, I began to see a difference between boys and girls. Boys are now behind in reading. Many are distracted and give up more easily than girls in general. They often require more encouragement from teachers and parents. 

I see many parents giving their sons more free time than girls have, so they can play sports and do other activities. Our boys tend to prefer more hands-on activities and see reading as boring and punishment. They love to build things, watch television, or play video games. Parents are allowing their kids to do these activities.

This situation is creating a deficit particularly in boys’ reading abilities. If they do not learn how to read and gain an education, they will not perform well in school. Boys may even begin to engage in deviant behaviors and even fall into a life of crime. If they do this, they will not acquire the basic skills for employment, or if they do work, they will have low-paying jobs and have problems supporting themselves and their families.

Reading can change this trajectory.

I know of several children, including young boys, who received interventions in learning to read. They passed their CPEA Exams and are holding their own now in secondary school. Some have seen their self-esteem and communication skills improved.

“Boys may even begin to engage in deviant behaviors and even fall into a life of crime.”

Hands Across the Sea impacts the lives of boys and girls in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by providing books and other materials. Before, many libraries consisted of tired collections of culturally inappropriate books. With their help, new libraries have sprung up in primary schools all across the Eastern Caribbean. Existing libraries have been replenished with new books. These contributions have allowed literacy development to take great strides in the creation and sustainability of primary school libraries. 

Over the past 13 years in Saint Vincent, Hands Across the Sea has established, equipped, and sustained libraries in almost every primary school throughout the country. Hands also contributes books to secondary schools, reading clubs, book clubs, and the National Library. No other organization has stuck with us this long, nor have given as much support to literacy in the SVG. 

Their contributions are impacting both boys and girls. I am proud to work alongside them as a Literacy Link, providing personalized reading support for children.

“Before, many libraries consisted of tired collections of culturally inappropriate books.”

I commend Hands for their magnificent work. I especially thank the founders Tom and Harriet and Tom Linskey and Executive Director Amanda Sherlip for the love and dedication shown to the children in the Eastern Caribbean.


Yvette Pompey 
Literacy Link | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

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