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Fostering, enhancing and motivating

The original mission of The Book Bank Foundation, founded by Glenn Toby in 1997 in New York, was to promote and advocate literacy by providing books and other literature to underprivileged children and adults. Over time that mission expanded to include challenges such as providing underprivileged children and their families with resources for combating abuse, hunger and homelessness. Goals are accomplished through the use of motivational speakers; showcasing models of positive behavior; resourceful thinking; encouraging scholastic achievement; and utilizing various programs and events to stimulate self-esteem, academic achievement and future goal setting. It’s this program that has been brought to The Bahamas by Shanrese Bain and Reverend Deno Cartwright.

The Book Bank Foundation Bahamas chapter was launched last month with its Reading and Empowerment Saturdays at Jordan Prince Williams Baptist School.

Through the introduction of Reading and Empowerment Saturdays the foundation aims to foster a love of reading and literacy; enhance and improve reading levels and capabilities; foster and mentor young writers; and empower and motivate through inspirational and educational seminars and activities.

“With the level of violence in our society, we have a problem resolving conflict. Also from our school results, there is an issue in terms of reading and literacy. So based on those factors, we decided it would be a good idea to have a chapter here in The Bahamas,” said Bain.

She and Cartwright met Toby when he was a guest speaker for the National Baptist Youth Organization earlier in the year. They loved the idea behind the Book Bank Foundation and wanted to open a Bahamian chapter.

“We are focusing on fostering a love of reading and literacy,” said Bain. “We’re looking to improve and enhance the reading levels and skills of our students and participants, and are excited about fostering a love for authorship — to develop new authors and bring them on stream. I love the idea of child authors and helping them to publish their work and work through that process, or marketing and all that good stuff, and also to empower and to motivate through inspirational and educational seminars and activities.”

The Book Bank Foundation Bahamas chapter’s primary focus will be on combating illiteracy by promoting a love of reading and creativity in processing what is learned from the readings. The secondary focus will be on empowerment through critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution, self-awareness and social responsibility.

They are hoping to bring about progressive transformation in the lives of participants through partnerships with teachers, parents and book bank volunteers.

William “Najee Dunn” Cartwright was the guest artist and speaker at the inaugural Bahamas chapter launch. He spoke to the hundreds of students and teachers about being an artist and writing and composing music, as well as being able to read song lyrics and have an understanding of the meaning of words in order to convey the message intended.

“Children are encouraged to read. I’m excited about this, because I loved reading as a child. I read incessantly. I am bothered if I don’t have a book. I used to go around to the neighbors, knocking on doors, introducing myself and asking if they had books I could read.”

Educationally, Bain said that members of the Bahamian chapter are looking to develop excellent readers.

“If you can read, that will lend to writing well and understanding your lessons and textbooks. So we’re looking to have an overall enhanced grouping of individuals who read well, who write well, and seeing that trickle into other courses that they would have to undertake.”

While Jordan Prince Williams is the first school housing the program, the plan is to introduce the initiative to other schools in the country.

“I’ve already had a teacher contact me saying whenever we are ready, that she is ready for us to bring the program to her school,” Bain said, adding that the chapter is looking forward to doing that in 2018.

Books saved the Book Bank Foundation founder’s life. When Toby was eight years old, he, his mother and older brother found themselves homeless. He says reading allowed him to travel to foreign and distant places, beyond his reality.

“Books and reading were a means of escape [for Toby]. Later, he founded the Book Bank Foundation in New York, and initially the premise was to stamp out poverty and illiteracy. That’s still the base that they operate from with illiteracy being very important to them, but they also do a lot of things in terms of helping the homeless with new clothing, medication, toys, and seminars. They also have an anti-bullying platform, and also address abuse,” said Bain.

Persons wishing to partner with the Book Bank Foundation Bahamas chapter through sponsorship, book donations – especially those authored by Bahamians, volunteering their time to read to children on Saturdays, or presenting on anti-bullying or conflict resolution should contact Shanrese Bain or Deno Cartwright at bookbankfoundationbahamas@gmail.com.

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