The students and parents from Year 2 Frater created a beach scene, with their rich reading area underneath a cabana.

The students at West Bay’s Sir John A. Cumber Primary School now have a few more reading resources thanks to some recent donations of reading and school supplies.

A donation of books and school supplies by a family visiting from overseas was presented to the school on Monday, March 20. Donors Joshua and Katie Brown were visiting the island from St. Louis, Missouri, with their 6-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son, Sir John A. Cumber teacher and library resources coordinator Annette Vaughan told the Cayman Compass.

The gift was presented on the platform of the international group, Pack for a Purpose, and was organized through The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. It was received on the school’s behalf by Deputy Principal Lorna Lumsden, and was witnessed by a select group of students. The collaboration was coordinated by the chair of the Community Footprints Board for The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Yentel McGaw.

The family also took time to volunteer their services in classrooms, reading with students and assisting in learning centers in two Reception classes. According to Ms. Vaughan, they enjoyed the experience and the staff, teachers and students appreciated their acts of kindness.

The Brown family’s donation adds to the growing collection of reading resources the school has received in recent months. A donation of some 3,500 books was presented to the school in December 2016. Organized by charitable organization Literacy Is For Everyone, known as LIFE, in partnership with private firms KPMG and Walkers and members of Cayman Prep’s High School Key Club and primary school Student Council, it is believed to be the largest recorded gift of reading materials given to a government school in Cayman.

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The majority of the books have gone toward creating individual classroom libraries at the school and will also assist with LIFE’s paired reading initiative, both aimed at fostering literacy in young readers.

In addition, a number of hardcover books were donated to the school’s library collection.

According to a press release, almost 2,000 of the books were collected in a book drive organized by Cayman Prep and High School’s Key Club and its primary school’s Student Council.

Another 700 were donated by Walkers through an internal campaign. KPMG volunteers then sorted the books so they could be distributed to the correct grade level in the school.

“It continues to be a real pleasure to partner with LIFE, Walkers, KPMG, and service organizations like Key Club,” said Education Minister Tara Rivers.

“LIFE has consistently helped support reading development across government schools along with our other community partners … It is essential that students have a variety of interesting books that are readily available and easy to access. LIFE and their partners have just made it easier to put quality books into the hands of our students.”

LIFE and the Ministry of Education are working to establish in-class leveled libraries in every key stage 1 government classroom, which covers Years 1-3, in this instance helping Sir John A. Cumber move toward a goal of 15 books for every child.

“This is an ambitious undertaking that, once completed, will make a tremendous impact in the lives of each student in the primary schools,” said Ministry of Education Literacy Specialist Brad Wilson.

After the books were distributed, teachers, students, parents and volunteers from the Community Footprints program helped the 16 key stage 1 classes that received the books enhance their reading areas.

“One objective was to transform the reading environment into a more attractive and purposeful one, and the teachers succeeded in achieving that goal,” said Ms. Vaughan.

The areas were developed around various themes, including Leap into a Great Book, Buzz into Reading, and Reading at the Beach, and one focusing on the children’s author Dr. Seuss, Ms. Vaughan said.

Classes used cushions, benches, pillows, rugs, rockers, beanbag chairs and oversized stuffed animals to create a comfortable reading environment.

LIFE Executive Director Marilyn Conolly and Mr. Wilson visited the school on March 6 to tour the classrooms and see the reading areas.

Ms. Conolly noted that in-class leveled libraries provide much needed books while children are still in the stage of learning to read and prevent the later problems encountered when illiterate children are in high school and are reading to learn.

“LIFE remains committed to promoting literacy and a love of reading, while also providing successful literacy interventions through our many programmes and with the support of the community,” she said.

“Together we can ensure that all children will leave primary school with a love of reading.”

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