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August | 2015
Hands Wish Lists: The Lady Who Buys Amazing Books
SMART SHOPPER Hands Program/Operations Director Amanda Dombach combs 2015 catalogs from 26 of the world's leading children's book and education publishers to find the gold
Let the magic begin! Summertime is a magical time at Hands Across the Sea as we pore over the 2015-2016 Hands Wish Lists received from schools and choose and purchase 35,000 or so brand new books from the world's best children's book and educational publishers. That's a very tall order, but fortunately we've found the perfect person to tackle it: our Hands Program/Operations Director, Amanda Dombach.

"From 2010 to 2012, when I served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer on Grenada, I had the opportunity, thanks to support from Hands, to create a lending library in a rural primary school, as well as multiple Saturday-morning reading programs that focused on story read-alouds and interactive literacy activities," says Amanda. "All this gave me great insight into the types of books that children of all ages and reading levels
SIMPLY THE BEST The book selection that Hands sends would be welcome at any top school anywhere in the world
choose for themselves and get excited about. I saw the kids' responses as they experienced a book, and saw what kind of books and what features of the books engaged them. Working in the Caribbean with children over the last five years helps guide my book selection, so that I can buy books that relate to the culture and issues that children and young people face. I also speak to current Peace Corps Volunteers and our Hands Literacy Links to get their recommendations, and I create orders based on the Hands Wish Lists requests of teachers, librarians, and principals.

"A lot of times, students in Eastern Caribbean primary and secondary schools do not have access to new, engaging, relevant reading books. When the boxes of new books from Hands arrive, the energy and excitement that radiates throughout a school is so intense it's almost overwhelming—but in the best way possible!
Abrams Books • Annick Press • Capstone Publishers • Caribbean Reads • DK Publishing • Editorial Campana • Hachette • Heyday Books • High Interest Publishers • Highlights • Human Kinetics • Ian Randle Publishers • Kerosene Lamp Foundation • Lee & Low • Macmillan Caribbean • McGraw-Hill • Papilotte Press • Pearson • Penguin Books • Random House • Rosen Publishing • Rosetta Books • Scholastic • Tiny Island Press • Townsend Press • World Book
The children are incredibly eager to help set up the library and start reading. Libraries also provide children with a safe space that is "theirs" and is more relaxed than the classroom or the sports field—a place where they can be a kid and pursue an interest independently. In a lot of communities there are not many, if any, extracurricular activities for children."

The impact of amazing new books is powerful, and life-changing. "Books give students a way to escape reality and experience a day in someone else's shoes, explore far-off times or places, hang out with their favorite characters, and learn new things," says Amanda. "Books are also something that the students share. Children often tell me, their self-confidence soaring and a proud smile on their face, that they have read a book to their brother, sister, or class. Other times, students ask if they can check out a second book because their siblings, mother, or neighbor is reading their first book. That's how great books and a lending library at a school helps spread literacy throughout a community. We're buying books from twenty-six publishing houses this summer, including eight Caribbean-focused publishers. I can't wait, along with our on-island Hands Literacy Links, to see the children open the boxes and start reading!"

If you're considering making a donation to Hands, our summertime book-buying season is the perfect time: your gift will go directly into buying new, wonderful books for Caribbean children. Please donate today and make their dreams come true!