Concerned about the pandemic-related learning loss among students at the primary level, cousins Debra-Kaye Smith and Savannah Smith — both high schoolers — started the Books For Kids Foundation.
Being avid readers from they were very young, the cousins pooled the books that they’ve used over the years to start the foundation. They have since received support from Kingston Bookshop, which uses its different locations as drop-off points for people who want to donate to the Books For Kids Foundation.
Still in its infant stages, the foundation earlier this year handed over books to Allman Town Primary School, with the cousins promising to return on Read Across Jamaica Day to narrate books from their catalogue for the children.
On Tuesday, May 3, Debra-Kaye and Savannah — students of Immaculate Conception High School and St Andrew High School For Girls, respectively — were joined by representatives from Kingston Bookshop and others to read to the children of Allman Town Primary in their quest to uplift and encourage them to broaden their scope through reading.
“When growing up, we were big into reading. We had a bunch of books at home and which we believe are very valuable and it’s a good thing that everybody should be doing. We were talking with my aunt one day, Savannah’s mom, just talking about how some primary school kids have learning loss because of COVID,” Debra-Kaye said.
“When kids go off for summer holidays, they lose some of the skills that they learned, so think of COVID as an extended summer, so a lot of kids end up losing a lot of their skills and are not really at the level they should be at,” she added.
“So we thought, a great way to give back to the community is to donate some of the books that we have at home that we are not using anymore and help share the knowledge that we have come to love and that we hold dear and near to ourselves…with everybody else and try to bridge that gap.”
Some of the other people who read to the students were writer and director of children’s plays and contemporary stories Amina Blackwood-Meeks, Member of Parliament for Central Kingston Donovan Williams and quiz master for TVJ’s School Challenge Quiz Jean-Paul Menou.
Allman Town Primary School’s Principal, La-Toya Nesbitt, said the children benefited from the experience.