The Palmyra Foundation Begins 3 Week Distribution Of 25,000 Free Books To 5,750 Children

Palmyra Foundation sponsors and volunteers are busy preparing for this year’s book distribution, set to commence at Montego Bay Infant School on Monday, September 3, 2012. Under the slogan “The future is bright, when you can read and write!”, the three week long book distribution kicks off with the delivery of free bookbags to 471 four year old Kindergarten children at Montego Bay Infant School on their first day of school.

From there on, distribution teams will visit 70+ schools in towns, mountains and rural areas across the island to distribute more than 25,000 free books and school supplies to 5,750 children, valued at over US$170,000.  Each of the children will receive their very own Palmyra Foundation bookbag containing a colorful 300-page BrainQuest Workbook, 2 – 3 Scholastic reading books, a pack of crayons and a pencil at a value of approximately US$34 per pack. Says Ragni Trotta, Board Member of The Palmyra Foundation; “This is the highlight of the year for us. We invite all sponsors and supporters to personally come and hand out bookbags to the children, because it is such a special experience. Just be prepared to tie numerous shoelaces, wipe a few tears and help tuck some shirts in while you have lots of fun!”

While this year’s books were shipped to the island courtesy of Seaboard Marine Limited, local transportation company Jamaica Tours Limited (JTL) is providing its services for the 5th year, helping to bring distribution teams and books to the many schools. Said Noel Sloley Jr., VP of Sales and Marketing, JTL; “It is important to nurture our children at a tender age and provide them with books so that they can develop a love for reading and ‘story time’. JTL is proud to participate in the Palmyra Foundation’s effort to help eradicate early childhood illiteracy in Jamaica.”

For the third year running, The Palmyra Foundation has monitored results among the children who receive books through a year-end Assessment measuring the children’s reading, writing, math and science skills. Explains Trotta; “In 2010, we measured an average success rate of 69% among 833 children (K1) prior to the children receiving books. In 2011, only one year after receiving books, the average results among 474 children (K1) at the same schools had increased to 88%. This year, we measured an overall success rate of 86% among 1510 (K1 and K2) children who received books from The Palmyra Foundation at the beginning of the school year.”

According to Trotta, the charity has observed improvements at every single school that has received books. Moreover, an average success rate of above 90% was measured at four schools; Hampden Basic School, Providence Heights Infant School, Falmouth Infant School and Montego Bay Infant School; “The results confirm that our book distributions are making an immediate and significant impact. Our charity’s qualitative goal is to maintain an 85% average success rate on the test among the children who receive books, so we are overjoyed by this year’s results.”

Stated Trotta about the results: “Over the last three years, the K1 children at Providence Heights Infant School have shown tremendous progress, with an average success rate of 59% before receiving books (2010), up to 84.4% last year (2011) and up further to a success rate of 91% this year (2012). Moreover, the K2 children at Providence Heights who received books from the charity two years running scored an impressive 94% on this year’s assessment.”

The Palmyra Foundation Board Members believe that a large part of the success of the project is due to the fact that the children love the interactive and colourful 300 page BrainQuest Workbooks, which covers the Alphabet, Numbers, Phonics and Shapes & Colors and contains 150 colourful stickers. The Workbook comes highly recommended to parents by Sesame Street, which states that “BrainQuest goes beyond simple memorization and encourages kids to use reasoning, listening, and visualization skills, which increases its educational and entertainment value.”  Said Nadia Stevens, K2 teacher at Montego Bay Infant, to volunteers from the charity on ‘Reading Day’; “The children in my class use the BrainQuest Workbook every day because it covers the core curriculum, is very colourful and great for exercises.” Feedback from her 5 year old students was equally positive, with the children expressing that they loved using the Workbook because it was “colourful, pretty, easy to read in and has stickers!”

Paired with supporting reading books from Scholastic Publishers, which has generously donated an additional 10,000 free books to this year’s distribution, the overall effect has proven to be immediate. Said Nelson Hitchcock, Senior Vice President Corporate Marketing at Scholastic; “We support the wonderful work of The Palmyra Foundation and are happy to help promote reading and literacy in Jamaica.” Said Trotta; “Before receiving books, the K1 children at Montego Bay Infant measured an average success rate of 69.3% (2010). After receiving books last year, the K1 average immediately jumped to 88.5% (2011). This year, the K1 children accomplished an incredible 91,3% among 222 children measured. Additionally, the 559 K2 children who received bookbags both Kindergarten years achieved a superb average success rate of 90.9% on this year’s test.”

Feedback from parents at Falmouth Infant School, where the children achieved an overall success rate of 91.6%, has also been extremely encouraging. Said mother Feronie Foster Williams; “The reading and learning materials our daughter Alisiandrae received has sparked many improvements in literacy. She is now able to identify basic shapes and colours, and has developed a remarkable ability of memorizing words, and often times sentences.” Ava Roper, another mother of a student at Falmouth Infant said that she loved the books her son Lavaughn received from the Palmyra Foundation last year; “The books have helped improve my sons reading level immensely. They have also created a closer bond between my son and I as we work together, reading and answering questions.”

While 5,030 booksbags will be given to the charity’s target group of 4 and 5 year old school children, 720 primary school children from Grade 1 – 6 will also benefit from bookbags for the coming school year. Explains Trotta; “This year, we are making an exception for 5 smaller schools where a large percentage of the children do not have books.  We are conscious of the tremendous improvements these children have already achieved and would like to help them continue their success.”

Finished Trotta; “For me, the year’s most unexpected and amusing results came courtesy of the four 3 year old children at Jane Viera Kindergarten at the SOS Village in Barrett Town, who received K1 bookbags last year. They measured an incredible success rate of 95.53%, and outdid both the 4 year olds (90%) and the 5 year olds (79.75%) at their Kindergarten. That really shows you the what our young children are capable of with the right tools.”

At the end of this year’s book distribution, more than 100 international volunteers will have helped deliver 100,000 books to 25,000 children in 80 schools across Jamaica’s 14 parishes, at a value of approximately US$ 670,000 since the charity’s startup in 2007. The Palmyra Foundation continues to collaborate closely with the Early Childhood Commission in Region 4 and the Ministry of Education of Jamaica.

This year’s book distribution is sponsored by Scholastic Publishers, Workman Publishing, Seaboard Marine Limited, Keith Thorpe Ltd, Jamaica Tours Limited (JTL), Pinnacle Promotions, Landmark Global Associates, Delta, JetBlue Airways, J. Wray & Nephew, Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, Diageo, Margaritaville/ Island Entertainment Brands, WISYNCO (Wata/ Ocean Spray/ Coca Cola), Dolphin Cove, Karma Resorts, Silverpoint Vacations, Rainforest Seafoods, Frame by Frame, The Gleaner Company, Iberostar, Island Outpost Group, ICE Enterprise, Interval International,, Fontana, Resort Condominiums International (RCI), Secrets Resorts, Gran Palladium & Fiesta Hotels, Regency Resorts, The First Group, Media One Hotels, Bahia del Duque, Castello del Nero, Spanish Court Hotel, Cassidy aka Boheme, Casa de Oro, Tropicana Jewlers, Swiss Stores, Jewels and Time and numerous private individuals including Dale and Kimberlyn Jones from The Paul Mitchell School, James and Jeanne Galway and Candis Nickleberry and teachers at the Charles Blackstock Junior Highschool.