Opening a Whole New Reading World for Students in Saint Lucia

By Julianna Wright, posted on

Benetech Partners with Saint Lucia Department of Sustainable Development and Department of Education to run UNESCO funded Bookshare pilot at Lady Gordon Opportunity Centre

Students wearing school uniforms standing outside holding handmade signs with slogans that celebrate reading
Lady Gordon Opportunity Centre students holding signs for a reading celebration earlier this year (Photo courtesy of Lady Gordon Opportunity Centre)

We’re pleased to announce the pilot of the Saint Lucia Bookshare Library. The pilot is funded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and sponsored by Saint Lucia’s Department of Sustainable Development and Department of Education. For the pilot, Benetech will build a digital library, to be used by students and teachers at special education schools across the island. This localized library of accessible content will hold key education materials from the Saint Lucia curriculum in addition to the 600,000+ books available to readers in St. Lucia through the Bookshare global collection.

Saint Lucia’s Lady Gordon Opportunity Centre will lead this pilot, set to begin in January 2021. Here, Linda Preville, Principal of the Lady Gordon Opportunity Centre, shares her perspective on the pilot and the importance of accessible books.

Why did you decide to participate with Benetech to establish the Saint Lucia Bookshare Library?

As a learning institution catering to children with a range of special educational needs, it is imperative to seek new and innovative ways to improve the teaching and learning environment.

The use of a Bookshare Library was a new concept to me and the staff at the school. Levi St. Marie of the Saint Lucia Department of Sustainable Development introduced me to this wonderful resource, which holds so much potential, if available to persons with disabilities in Saint Lucia.

Many of the students who attend the Lady Gordon Opportunity Centre have been identified and diagnosed with mild to severe reading disabilities. Learning how Bookshare has changed the lives of similar groups of individuals, I thought this was an opportunity I could not let pass by without further exploring all it has to offer.

What are your goals for this Bookshare pilot program and how will the pilot support instruction at the school?

I have one main goal for the Bookshare pilot program: to open a whole new “reading world” for the students.

I have often witnessed how students with reading disabilities, reading challenges and print disabilities become demotivated and self-conscious. Their confidence levels plummet while struggling to read a passage or poem from a basal reader or storybook.

Utilizing the online books and assistive devices Bookshare affords, teachers will now be able to support students in their unique learning styles. Students will be able to work independently with a teacher as a guide/facilitator, as students read for academic purposes or for pleasure.

What is the leadership role that Lady Gordon Opportunity Centre is taking in this pilot?

The Lady Gordon Opportunity Centre will be facilitating the training for educators, both from the school and other special educators from the five other special education schools on island, who will be participating in the pilot. The staff and students of the school will also be the first cohort to actually utilize the Bookshare Library on island, with the goal of becoming trainers to teachers in mainstream schools.

Why is it important to have accessible materials for students?

It is the aim of this education institution to make available resources to enhance the teaching and learning environment.  Special education requires that a child with disabilities should be taught in the least restrictive environment, and availability of accessible materials means every child will be given an opportunity to succeed.

The Benetech team would like to thank Principal Preville for sharing her perspective on the upcoming pilot. We are looking forward to working together in the new year!

Learn more about how Bookshare helps students break through reading barriers.

Read about how special education teacher Ben Griese uses Bookshare, assistive technology, and creativity to engage reluctant readers in rural Alaskan Native community