'Books for Kids' heading to St Elizabeth schools
(From left) Kingston Bookshop Sales Agent Kerry-Ann Armstrong, Books For Kids Ja Co-founder Debra-Kaye Smith, Allman Town Primary School Principal Latoya Nesbitt, Books For Kids Ja Co-founder Savannah Smith, and Kingston Bookshop Special Projects Coordinator Tashana Johnson Lynch pose for a photo at the school on Read Across Jamaica Day 2022.

After a successful summer book drive, Books for Kids Ja will be spreading its reach to benefit schools in St Elizabeth.

Conveners of Books for Kids Ja Debra-Kaye Smith and Savannah Smith have announced that Ballard's Valley and Brompton primary schools have been selected to receive donations following their book collection drive, in partnership with Kingston Bookshop.

The schools were among those that reached out expressing an interest in receiving reading books.

"We received quite a few DMs [direct messages] from schools, and we chose schools outside of Kingston and St Catherine this time because we wanted to spread the love. The teacher at Ballard's Valley who contacted us is super excited and we can't wait to get there and meet with the administration and the students. To top it off, our parents are from St Elizabeth, so we see this as way of giving back to our roots," said Debra-Kaye.

Books For Kids Ja co-founders Savannah Smith (left) and Debra- Kaye Smith (second left) captivate the attention of students at Allman Town Primary School with an animated reading of a story during the school’s Read Across Jamaica Day event this year.

The Smiths, who are cousins, started the initiative at the beginning of 2022 in response to the learning loss caused by COVID-19.

So far, the initiative has benefited students from the Allman Town and Holy Family primary schools in the Corporate Area, and Braeton Primary in St Catherine.

"The need is so great and so many schools have reached out to us on Instagram. We're extremely grateful to Kingston Bookshop for joining with us to make these next set of donations possible," said Savannah.

Kingston Bookshop joined the initiative in May, providing drop-off points for book donations across its network of stores. The partnership yielded more than 80 donated books.

"When you see young people stepping up to the plate to do good for their community, you just have to get on board. We're so very proud of Debra-Kaye and Savannah and really happy that we could have helped in a small way to facilitate the process that will be a blessing to students who are still trying to find their feet after the disruption of the last two years," said Kingston Bookshop Special Projects Coordinator Tashana Johnson Lynch.

The co-founders of Books for Kids Ja, Savannah and Debra-Kaye, are upper sixth form students at St Andrew and Immaculate Conception high schools, respectively.

They are hoping to continue the book drive through to the end of the year, with a view to delivering books to at least four more schools before Christmas.

"We've already begun to see the impact. The principal at Allman Town Primary tells us that the books have been put to good use and the children are making up lost ground. We want to replicate that in as many schools as we can. We can't to get to every school, but Deb and I are committed to doing what we can with what we have," said Savannah.

Members of the public who wish to donate their new or slightly used reading books can reach out via their Instagram page.

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