Hands Across the Sea and Sandals Foundation Partnership to anchor literacy in the preschool environment!

(Sandals Foundation)- The Eastern Caribbean’s first Universal Emergent Literacy program has been officially launched. The manual, titled Early Pages Program comes after a three-year pilot in Grenada and Nevis, and will immediately begin reaching some of the region’s most vulnerable students through dozens of preschools serving children ages 3-5. An initiative of Hands Across the Sea, the Sandals Foundation helped to bring this important project to life through a USD $36,000 grant that fully funded the creation of a print and digital programmatic manual to support more than 500 preschools in the Eastern Caribbean -bringing much needed aid to thousands of children and educators in the region.

Amanda Sherlip, Executive Director Hands Across the Sea shares moment with Carl Beviere Regional Managing Director, Sandals Resorts International ( Barbados and Antigua) as the resort’s philanthropic arm has partnered to create the Eastern Caribbean’s first Universal Emergent manual, Early Pages Program.

“The vision is for the manual to become a fundamental resource that empowers preschool teachers and Early Childhood Units,” says Amanda Sherlip, Executive Director at Hands cross the Sea. “We hope this will be a transformational early literacy program in schools and communities.”

The Early Pages Programme (EPP) aims to raise childhood literacy levels and prepare children for lifelong success through 3 intentional actions: integrating literacy as an explicit aspect of the preschool environment; increasing parental engagement; and building awareness and community participation in early childhood literacy.

“The EPP manual and programmatic framework works in harmony with existing regional curriculum and assessment goals, and anchors literacy as an explicit aspect of the preschool environment, while supporting teacher professional development and readying students for primary school. In addition to the manual, the program relies on a preschool library collection which consists of Big Books, board books, and individual reader and lending sets, a series of orientations and trainings, and ongoing mentorship support, all of which are provided to partnering schools through Hands Across the Sea,” says Sherlip.

The program’s early pilot in Grenada and subsequent soft launch in Nevis both exceeded Hands’ expectations with increased parental engagement, community participation, teacher professional development, and student development. The manual has already made quite an impact in the region, with Hands Across the Sea invited to present the program to the 12 Eastern Caribbean countries attending the recently held 8th Annual Meeting of Early Childhood Leaders hosted in Barbados this October in partnership with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

All conference participants left with a program manual, and Hands is already in planning talks with several countries for the timing and strategy for launching the program in the upcoming school year. “Through this partnership and investment, Hands Across the Sea has set its vision for scaling this vital program throughout all 6 of its operating countries. We also aims to make the program publicly available through Open Access to the digital manual.”

Heidi Clarke, Executive Director, Sandals Foundation says the Early Pages Programme comes at a critical moment for early childhood development in the Eastern Caribbean. “Since the Covid-19 pandemic, early childhood leaders across the region have reported a staggering rise in cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral challenges facing young children. The EPP framework encourages a personal, interactive, and highly participatory approach to early childhood engagement. At its core, it supports many of the most fundamental developmental needs of children at this very vulnerable stage in their growth. An area that the Sandals Foundation sees as fundamental to the growth of students.”

The philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International has been a longstanding partner of Hands Across the Sea, investing in capacity building workshops for parents and educators, as well as seeing to the creation and outfitting of literacy infrastructure in the eastern Caribbean since 2013. Preparations for the upcoming 2023-24 academic year is already underway with 66 schools across the islands of Grenada, Dominica, Saint Kitts, and Nevis set to launch their programs with the transformative manual by their side.

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