Following a regional launch in October at the 8th Annual Meeting of Early Childhood Leaders hosted in Barbados by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with 66 preschools confirmed in the Eastern Caribbean, Grenada formally launched their Early Pages Programme last week.
In Grenada, 20 new partner schools serving nearly 1,000 vulnerable children ages 3–5 years will join the Hands Across the Sea Early Pages Programme which has been made possible by a US$50,000 donation from the Sandals Foundation. With the full endorsement of the Ministry of Education, the launch of this timely initiative has been referred to as nothing short of an historic moment and investment in the future of Grenadian children.
This programme was developed by NGO Hands Across the Sea, which has been dedicated to improving literacy in the Caribbean since 2007. The Early Pages Manual and collateral was funded by the Sandals Foundation and will support over 500 pre-schools throughout the region within the next 5 years.
According to the Executive Director of Hands Across the Sea Amanda Sherlip the need has been proven. “Throughout our years of advocacy and outreach the need to address literacy challenges from the earliest stages rather than later intervention became obvious and so came the Early Pages Programme.”
The Sandals Foundation offered support from the pilot stage in the 2020–2021 school year. Since then the Early Pages Programme manual, collateral and methodology have been refined and embraced by educators, ministries of education, and parents. According to Patrina Sookram-Charles, a representative for the Ministry of Education Early Childhood Unit, “Putting literacy skills into students at an early age is what works best. This has been studied and proven around the world, and so we pledge our support for the goals of this programme to be realised.”
“The emergent approach of Early Pages is poignant and relevant to maneuver the ever-changing tides of this digital age, and in our collective post-pandemic recovery,” shared Deleon Forrester, Public Relations Manager, Sandals Grenada Resort.
The Early Pages Programme focuses on creating a literacy-rich preschool environment while building parental involvement and community library engagement.
Andrea Lord, the parent of a student attending the River View Preschool stated, “The activities helped my son and our relationship in so many ways beyond the expected. It helped him to develop and share his independent thoughts, and learn right from wrong. It improved our bonding and communicating. I gained insight to his feelings and we had to use our creativity.”
Local Professional Programme Coordinators — referred to as ‘Literacy Links’ — are retired educators Gloria Bonaparte and Bernadette John who share a passion for literacy on their mission to eradicate, ‘can’t read.’ Bonaparte shared, “When I retired, I decided I must continue to help those children who use my 2 least favourite words, ‘can’t read’. We must give our children the foundation for success and the Early Pages Programme instills those fundamental literacy skills that we must give the next generation.”