Why here?

No country can afford to be complacent about illiteracy but it’s clear small nations in this part of the developing world are at tremendous risk. Teachers, parents and local governments tell us OneWorld Schoolhouse is making a difference.

In Canada, several well-funded organizations serve aboriginal communities, including Princes Charities Canada, Frontier College, First Book Canada and the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative. If you are looking to support literacy here at home, consider supporting these groups.

However, if you want to make a difference in the Eastern Caribbean, please read on.

There is a global crisis around literacy. And every country is concerned about making sure children have access to literacy. I think we have a real social responsibility… to connect as many people globally as possible to help support one another. And when you have people who are determined to make a difference, I think there is a serious chance of driving change.

Sonya White

THE ISSUE

Here, almost annual hurricanes and a stubborn recession have eliminated most libraries. Not surprisingly, among 15 – 24 year olds – absolute literacy levels have fallen from 87% to 82%.

Date source: UNESCO May 2013

In this landscape, we began in 2011 to donate relevant, recently-used storybooks to schools in St. Lucia, Grenada, Montserrat and Nevis. The goal is to create a library in every school in these countries plus Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica. To date, we’ve donated over 250,000 books. To review shipments, scroll to the bottom of the page; you’ll see both donor and recipient schools.

I think most of us accept that in today’s world, knowledge is pervasive and ever expanding… what is needed increasingly more in the real world are people who can think, solve problems, create, innovate, imagine and adapt.

The Rt. Hon. Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of St. Lucia

RAINFOREST OF READING

By 2013 we realized donated books – even recently, well-written ones – can only arrest the damage. For reading to take root, we needed a compelling idea to re-ignite a love of reading. More than philanthropy, we needed marketing.

So, with the inspiration –and permission of the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading” program – we created the Rainforest of Reading” Festival in 2013. The festival excites kids, no matter the particular level of reading proficiency. That some parents can’t read has not diminish the kids’ enthusiasm. In three years, participation has grown from 400 kids in one country to 11,000 in four countries.

The festival depends on three unique elements. First, a personal passport” for every child. The passports re-position” books as destinations”. Since most Caribbean kids can’t afford to travel – even to the next island – travel has a tremendous appeal. Second, we invite Canadian and/​or American authors and illustrators to come down and meet the kids. Third, we hold a massive, noisy and very engaging national, day-long celebration complete with parades and games in open air venue. The combined effect is finely-tuned fun that reverberates in memory all year long.

THE VALUE OF READING

What change can this new generation of readers offer their communities? The answer is: perspective. Research tells us fiction is indispensable to compassion-building, critical thinking, and problem-solving. But crucially, reading fiction gives children – especially those living below the poverty line – a wider view of themselves and the future. 

We think our reading festivals are innovative for several reasons:

  • Teachers receive professional development to guide them through the process and explain best practices. Reading occurs simultaneously in every classroom. 
  • Rainforest of Reading passports are proof that a child belongs to the world of stories. Children respond in word and pictures to 12 books. Answers enable accountable talk”.
  • We immerse kids in the idea of stories by bringing authors and illustrators to run workshops with kids.
  • Being a citizen of the Rainforest of Reading creates an immediate sense of belonging for all readers and a vital link to the wider world of other readers.

To browse all festivals by year or country click on the Rainforest of Reading logo at the top of this page. 

HOW WE ARE BUILDING SUSTAINABILITY

We are building sustainability by:

  • working in co-operation with local governments.
  • identifying champions”. In St. Lucia, Governor General Pearlette Louisy, is our Patron and is an advocate for literacy renewal. 
  • engaging business people, parents and local Peace Corps volunteer at festival celebrations.
  • measuring success. On Day One of the festival all teachers record an anonymous student survey to measure reading habits and attitudes. Annual results are consolidated by grade, school, and country. Data is given to all Ministries of Education.
  • maintaining a volunteer program that brings Ontario primary school students to help at festivals each year. 

OUR FINANCES

Our annual budget ($225,000) is funded through a broad base of individual charitable giving. Financial support from Caribbean businesses pays for much of our on-site expenses.

No one at the foundation draws a salary; we’re 100% volunteer-based. You can view our most recent financial statements at: Canada Revenue Agency

FUTURE GROWTH

Antigua & Barbuba and St. Vincent & the Grenadines have expressed their desire to join us in 2017. We plan to invite all OECS countries by 2020 but donations dictate the speed at which we can satisfy these goals.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

The capacity to be thrilled, the possibility to act on dreams – this is what donated books and Rainforest of Reading festivals bring to its citizens.” Literacy in the Caribbean is as fragile as anywhere in the world. We assume these tourist-based economies are more prosperous than they really are. But being so close to North America these islands are too easily forgotten. We hope you will recognize our work as worthy of your support.

Where
Grenada
District
Carriacou & Petite Martinique schools
Goal Complete
0%
Goal
35 Boxes / 5,250 Books / 1,200 lbs / 544 kg
Timeline
Pack: Apr 2017 → Ship: May 2017 → Arrive: Jun 2017
Donor Schools
  • Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic DSB: 36 elementary schools
Where
Saint Lucia
District
Anse-La-Raye
Goal Complete
0%
Goal
175 Boxes / 26,250 Books / 6,000 lbs / 2,722 kg
Timeline
Pack: Mar 2017 → Ship: Apr 2017 → Arrive: May 2017
Donor Schools
  • Schools from Upper Grand DSB and Wellington Catholic DSB
Where
Montserrat
District
All primary schools
Goal Complete
200%
Goal
35 Boxes / 5,250 Books / 1,200 lbs / 544 kg
Timeline
Pack: Feb 2017 → Ship: Mar 2017 → Arrive: May 2017
Donor Schools
  • Renfrew County Catholic DSB: 21 schools
Where
St. Kitts & Nevis
District
All Nevis schools
Goal Complete
100%
Goal
70 Boxes / 10,500 Books / 2,400 lbs / 1,089 kg
Timeline
Pack: Feb 2017 → Ship: Apr 2017 → Arrive: May 2017
Donor Schools
  • Durham Catholic DSB: 40 elementary schools
Where
Saint Lucia
District
Vieux Fort
Goal Complete
80%
Goal
350 Boxes / 52,500 Books / 12,000 lbs / 5,443 kg
Timeline
Pack: Jul 2016 → Ship: Aug 2016 → Arrive: Sep 2016
Donor Schools
  • Claremount Public School,
  • EduCan Media Inc.,
  • Friends of the Guelph Public Library,
  • Guelph Central Public School,
  • Paisley Road Public School,
  • Palgrave Public School,
  • Quaker Village Public School,
  • St. John's-Kilmarnock School,
  • Westminster Woods Public School

Past Campaigns

When Where Books Delivered Total
Jun 2017 Grenada / Carriacou & Petite Martinique schools 0 Skids / 0 Boxes / 0 Books 0 lbs / 0 kg
May 2017 Saint Lucia / Anse-La-Raye 0 Skids / 0 Boxes / 0 Books 0 lbs / 0 kg
May 2017 Montserrat / All primary schools 2 Skids / 70 Boxes / 10,500 Books 2,400 lbs / 1,089 kg
May 2017 St. Kitts & Nevis / All Nevis schools 2 Skids / 70 Boxes / 10,500 Books 2,400 lbs / 1,089 kg
Sep 2016 Saint Lucia / Vieux Fort 8 Skids / 280 Boxes / 42,000 Books 9,600 lbs / 4,354 kg
Sep 2015 Saint Lucia / All 13 Skids / 456 Boxes / 68,400 Books 15,634 lbs / 7,092 kg
May 2014 Grenada / All 6 Skids / 218 Boxes / 32,700 Books 7,474 lbs / 3,390 kg
May 2014 Montserrat / All 5 Skids / 180 Boxes / 27,000 Books 6,171 lbs / 2,799 kg
May 2014 Saint Lucia / All 6 Skids / 206 Boxes / 30,900 Books 7,063 lbs / 3,204 kg
Jan 2014 Saint Lucia / All 5 Skids / 187 Boxes / 28,050 Books 6,411 lbs / 2,908 kg
Jun 2013 Grenada / All 2 Skids / 84 Boxes / 12,600 Books 2,880 lbs / 1,306 kg
May 2013 Saint Lucia / All 3 Skids / 98 Boxes / 14,700 Books 3,360 lbs / 1,524 kg
Mar 2013 Grenada / All 6 Skids / 200 Boxes / 30,000 Books 6,857 lbs / 3,110 kg
Sep 2012 Saint Lucia / All 7 Skids / 240 Boxes / 36,000 Books 8,229 lbs / 3,732 kg

Numbers to Date

Total Books Delivered Total Shipped Weight
343,350 Books 78,479 lbs / 35,597 kg
It's a long story
Books packed by kids in Ontario for their peers in the Caribbean travel 1,800 kilometres by road then another 5,275 kilometres by container ship.

Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.

KOFI ANNAN
Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997-2006)
And the Winner in Montserrat is....
Marlaina White (Left) announces the Second Annual Rainforest of Reading Award to Illustrator Jan Dolby (Middle) and Author Joyce Grant for "Gabby."

At the moment that we persuade a child, any child to cross...that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever.

BARACK OBAMA

The future is always beginning now. Each moment is a place you've never been.

MARK STRAND
Poet (1934-2014)

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

WILLIAM JAMES
Philosopher, Psychologist (1842-1910)
Find 52: The Road to Reading in Grenada
In February 2015, Richard ran right around Grenada, a distance of 52 miles. 52 "Mile Captains" raised $40,000.

If we want to make this world a better place, then we have to become better ourselves. There is no easy route.

DALAI LAMA

If you get the right [words] in the right order, you might nudge the world a little.

Sir Tom Stoppard
Playwright

Start some kind words on its travels. There is no telling where the good it may do will stop.

Sir Wilfred Grenfell
Humanitarian, Medical Missionary (1865-1940)
Out of this world
After reading "Postcards from Outer Space' a student in Montserrat is inspired to be the next Chris Hadfield.

Too many people grow up. That's the trouble with the world.

WALT DISNEY
(1901-1966)

All I know is what I have words for.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

If you believe what you read...you can, quite literally, believe anything.

NORTHROP FRYE
Professor, Philosopher (1912-1991)

Reading brings us unknown friends.

HONORÉ DE BALZAC
Novelist (1799-1850)

Life is too deep for words so don't try to describe it, just live it.

C. S. Lewis
Author, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Challenging literacy development
Although English is the official language of St. Lucia, Krewyol is spoken as much or more outside the classroom.

I read. I travel. I become.

DEREK WALCOTT
St. Lucian author & 1992 Nobel Laureate

It is by acts and not ideals that people live.

ANATOLE FRANCE
Author (1844-1924)

A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever.

MARTIN TUPPER
Author (1810-1889)