Books4Kids Jamaica now reaching more kids across island

Books4Kids Jamaica now reaching more kids across island

Monday, October 05, 2015

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THE Palymyra Foundation continues to inspire and encourage children at the basic school level to get excited about reading and writing through the non-profit organisation's Books4Kids Jamaica programme.

It's only been three weeks into the 2015 book distribution and Books4Kids Jamaica teams have visited 5,508 children at 54 schools. This achievement, in part, is due to the support given by the 50 sponsors and volunteers who have participated in the event so far.

"We go out and solicit donations and various people and organisations, such as the Spanish Court Hotel and Terra Nova Hotel, will give us a donation in the form of a three or four night stay at the hotel," member Frank Perolli told the Jamaica Observer.

Support from the hotels along with other donated items from the public are integral to the programme's biggest fund-raiser -- an online auction now in its fourth year.

Perolli said people are invited to go online and bid for the different items or services offered and will usually get great bargains for travel and hotel stay.

He said this year's auction has been very successful, raising US$60,000.

"We'll take money anytime...we start to go out and get donations just after Christmas, and the auction is usually the end of March or early April," Perolli said, adding that the organisations know they will come back again to solicit next year.

He explained that one of the ways of expressing gratitude to the hotels that make donations is to allow them to choose some of the schools they would like to benefit from the Books4Kids Jamaica programme, which has also seen them 'adopting' schools while working with the programme.

According to the Books4Kids Jamaica mission statement, its primary aim is to help increase literacy and promote a positive educational experience by providing books and early educational materials to four-year-olds (K1) and five-year-olds (K2) in pre-schools across Jamaica.

It has also stuck to its slogan -- The future is bright, when you can read and write! -- and believes in fostering the self-esteem of children growing up in challenging circumstances, introducing them to positive community role models and giving them real, practical resources for continued success.

Since its inception in 2007, Books4Kids Jamaica with the aid of more than 115 international volunteers, have helped provide more than 155,000 books to 43,000 children in more than 130 schools islandwide.

The organisation provides each child with a "Books4Kids book bag" that contains one 300-page BrainQuest Workbook, one to two kindergarten reading books, a pack of crayons, and a pencil, which has a retail value of US$35.

The Palmyra Foundation was founded by international real estate developer and developer for the Palmyra Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, Robert Trotta and his wife Ragni.

According to Perolli, the programme was born from an idea to give back to Jamaica and it was decided that the best way to do so was to give someone the opportunity to learn to read and write.

"I don't mean to be critical, but the Ministry of Education does not give books, to four-and five-year-old children so that means parents have to buy them. We know that not all the parents can afford books and because we were so fortunate we thought it would be a good way to give back. It gets them one step closer to an education, to knowledge, to reading and writing, and that's the reason why we chose four and five-year-old children," Perolli said.

The Ministry of Education has, however, been a key partner in helping the efforts of Books4Kids and for now the current goal is to get to every four- and five-year-old in the country.

However, Perolli stated that even though their target is four and five-year-old children, they have been providing material as well for three-year-olds as they are at the basic school level too.

"The next thing we need to do is expand the number of donations so we can expand the number of children we reach. Palace Amusement has allowed us to advertise in the cinemas and the feedback we get is fantastic. People see it and go online, they might not necessarily bid, but we get more exposure," Perolli said.

Books4Kids hopes to complete the distribution in early childhood institutions in Kingston tomorrow before moving on to the schools in St James and Hanover later this week.

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