Donated books kept kids reading during lockdown

From left, John Gray High School Principal Jon Clark, LIFE Book Donations Coordinator Erin Galatopoulos, LIFE Board Chairperson Woody Foster and John Gray High School Literacy Subject Leader Nerissa McLeod.

A literacy charity donated nearly 2,000 books to classrooms across the Cayman Islands, enabling children to continue reading and helping with remote learning during lockdown.

Many of the books were donated earlier this year by Literacy Is For Everyone, or LIFE, before Cayman adopted shelter-in-place measures to suppress the spread of COVID-19, according to a press release from the charity.

Grand Cayman’s John Gray High School and Cayman Brac’s West End Primary School were among the schools receiving the books.

John Gray donation

LIFE donated 680 classroom library books to expand John Gray’s classroom library project. Some of the books were then distributed to students after lockdown, to assist with their remote learning while they studied at home.

John Gray Principal Jon Clark said the donation had been hugely beneficial for students at a crucial time.

“Any extra resources we can provide our students during this difficult lockdown period have been beneficial in keeping our students on track as they seek to study at home,” he said. “For that reason, we were very pleased to be able to provide students with extra reading material to help them broaden their literary skills and help them develop a love of reading at home.”

The books will eventually go to create classroom libraries.

“We want all our students to become lifelong readers and, having classroom libraries filled with a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction, greatly helps us achieve this goal,” Clark said. “Our teachers help students to select books that complement the curriculum and address their personal interests.”

He added that when students were interested and engaged with books, it improved their comprehension as well as their enjoyment of reading.

West End Primary gets more than 1,000 books

West End Primary School Year 5 student Aidan Bodden reads one of LIFE’s donated books. – Photo: Submitted

LIFE also sent 16 boxes of books, containing 1,123 classroom library books and 227 school library books, to West End Primary School in late February.

Some of those books were distributed directly to students during lockdown so they had access to literature while they studied at home.

West End Primary School Principal Paul Samuel said in the press release that teachers sent some of the books home with the students when the school closed on 13 March, and later more were sent when the school reissued more resources and materials to students’ homes.

“A massive thank you to LIFE for all their help and support,” Samuel said. “These books are going to make a significant difference to the students at West End Primary School and we’re all very excited about their arrival.”

LIFE Project Coordinator Erin Galatopoulos explained that the books ear-marked for the school’s library tended to be hardback favourites, both fiction and non-fiction.

“When school reopens, these books will be individually bar-coded, stored in the library, and checked out regularly by students for years to come,” she said.

The classroom library books would be stored in classrooms for everyday use.

Galatopoulos said, “Based on literacy guidance and research, LIFE aims for a ratio of at least 15 books per child in every classroom to give students enough variety and access to quality children’s literature.”

Finding the right books

The aim of the charity’s Classroom Library Project is to bolster student access to books, encourage knowledge expansion and spread the joy of reading by ensuring that every classroom, in every government school in the Cayman Islands, is appropriately resourced with high quality books for their students, according to the press release.

LIFE stated in the release, “Creating and building a classroom library is time consuming and involves sourcing the right books, coordinating international shipping logistics and delivering the heavy load of books to schools.

“Many books are also sourced individually through generous donations from our community and by eagle-eyed volunteers finding bargains in second-hand book stores at home and abroad. It takes a team of volunteers to individually clean, collate and box these books into complete classroom libraries covering a variety of topics – including fiction and non-fiction – designed to capture the students’ imagination and enhance their classroom learning.”

Galatopoulos added, “It’s a labour of love putting together classroom libraries for public schools in Cayman. Studies show that when students have daily access to quality books, they will read more, and reading opens so many doors of knowledge and opportunity.”

To date, LIFE’s Classroom Library Project has donated more than 27,000 books to the Government school system, thanks to the commitment and generosity of its sponsors and volunteers.

LIFE’s Book Donation Project, which encompasses donations for both classroom libraries and school libraries, has so far succeeded in the donation of over 27,000 books to the Government school system, thanks to the commitment and generosity of its sponsors and volunteers.

To learn more about LIFE’s work, visit them on Facebook and Instagram @LIFECayman or email [email protected].

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