Good With Words
The “Rainforest of Reading” is an annual children’s book festival in Grenada, Saint Lucia, Montserrat and Nevis run by OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation. We’re cultivating deep roots for literacy and lifelong learning. The festival is the largest literacy initiative ever undertaken in a region still reeling from infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Ivan (2006) and Hurricane Tomas (2010) and the economic impact of a global recession.
Who We Are
OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation is a Canadian charitable corporation. (CRA Registration# 825358484RR0001). We are 100% volunteer-based. Our Co-Executive Directors are: Richard Clewes and Sonya White. Mrs. Leonise François, a former Deputy Chief Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, is the Country Lead in Saint Lucia. In Grenada, the Country Lead is Kathy Ann Herrera de Mountbrun.
Literacy transforms lives. Literacy is deeply connected to individual success, the empowerment of girls and the prosperity of communities. Reading can activate social change. And it starts with a simple but profound idea: – “Books can take you places you've never been before. Imagine That!”
In this often-ignored region of the developing world, illiteracy is on the rise. According to UNESCO (Institute for Statistics; May 2013), from 2002 to 2012, literacy among 15-24 year olds fell dramatically: from 87% to 82%.
In the Eastern Caribbean, books are in scarce supply. Many parents do not read to their children. Schools cannot afford proper libraries. Governments have funding challenges and the local economy is far from strong.
Why Literacy Matters
Children who become lifelong readers are more likely to succeed as adults. By seeking greater educational opportunities, readers cause living standards to rise. According to recent studies, the act of reading alters brain function in measurable and persistent ways. Reading supports critical thinking skills – and enlarges one’s capacity for compassion. (Emory University; Center for Neuropolicy, 2013)
These qualities are not just “nice” for a child to have – they represent particular skills that the region desperately needs. In an address to Commonwealth Ministers of Education, Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister said: “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.”
Without Access To New Books Illiteracy Will Continue To Rise
That’s why we place class sets of 12 books by Canadian children’s book authors into every public and private primary school in the Eastern Caribbean. We choose exciting, new stories on Afro-centric and global themes. Over three weeks, students read in class and then attend a national celebration. In 2013, the festival engaged 4,000 Grade 3 students in over 100 primary schools. In 2016, the number of participants has grown to over 10,000 students. The festival is taking place in about 200 primary schools.
Details About The Festival
We offer children an opportunity to envision a world of possibilities beyond the four walls of their classroom. To help them record their thoughts and opinions of each title, every student receives their very own Rainforest “passport”. The books become school property, but students keep their passports as a real travel document – a genuine connection to the power of literacy. As they journey through The Rainforest of Reading, they earn sticker-stamps for every book read! All readers – but especially reluctant ones– become part of something very special.
On the last day of the festival, we bring the kids together in a national celebration that starts with a parade and marching band. And, just for fun, we bring the authors down from Canada to stimulate more talk about the rich stories they’ve enjoyed. The day is organized around literacy-based activities: Bananagrams and other fun word puzzle games, drawing, reading, listening, singing – and most importantly – connecting with others who share the joy of reading. There’s no better way to create lifelong readers than to emphasize the social and engaging experience of literacy!
Donate to The Rainforest of Reading at canadahelps.org