The Caribbean Children’s Book Project

The Caribbean Children’s Book Project is an idea born from our five years experience working with the Office of the Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands and their literacy initiatives. Two of their most successful and popular projects are the Annual Children’s Holiday (Book) Party and Governor de Jongh’s Summer Reading Challenge.
The Holiday Book Party was created in 2008 by Cecile R. de Jongh, First Lady of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each child in the school system between grades K and 3 receive a large, hardcover, picture book written and illustrated by local writers and artists. The books are especially created for this project. In December, the children receive the books directly at their schools or from the hands of Santa Claus at the Holiday Children’s Parties created by the Office of the Governor for that purpose.
Click here to watch First Lady Cecile de Jongh’s invitation to the 2011 Holiday Party.

The Summer Reading Challenge provides books for students to read during summer vacation, among dozens of other titles. The books are offered for free to any student interested in entering the challenge. A tally of the books read is encouraged, and a party is given by the governor at summer’s end to the children who participated. Prizes are given to the students that read the most books.
Click here to watch Governor John de Jongh’s announcement for the 2012 Summer Reading Challenge.

Since its inception five years ago, Campanita Books and Little Bell Caribbean has produced every book selected for the Annual Children’s Holiday Party, and several titles for the Summer Reading Challenge. Each title is a special edition, opening with a personal letter from Governor or Mrs. de Jongh to the children of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A commercial edition of the books is produced as well, and made available at bookstores in the U.S. and the Caribbean: A great way to promote the Territory through literature.
Over 50,000 books by local writers and illustrators have been distributed to the children of the Territory.
Parents, teachers, librarians and children have confirmed the importance of the program, which has also created a new interest in writing children’s books in the U.S Virgin Islands.
• Encourages reading
• Introduces local talent to the children of the community
• Promotes the production of native children’s literature, where the
readers can see themselves reflected in words and images.
• Gives children the opportunity to read books created for them, by writers
and artists that understand them, and where their culture and their history
is valued.


This past December and January, our publisher Mario Picayo visited 16 Caribbean islands and was given the opportunity to speak about the initiatives, but more importantly, he listened and asked questions. What he learned from teachers and librarians, government officials, booksellers, writers, and children constitutes the backbone of the Caribbean Children’s Book Project.
Click here to read to learn more about Mario’s journey.

• Very few children’s books are written by local authors.
• Children have little knowledge about neighboring Caribbean
nations from one island to the next.
• Consensus that children are losing, or never acquiring the habit
of reading, mixed with worries about the future consequences of not
developing the intellectual and emotional benefits that books can provide.
• Caribbean themed children’s books are expensive, and there are not
enough of them.

With this in mind, and knowing the success of the book initiatives in the U.S. Virgin Islands, we decided to launch the Caribbean Children’s Book Project. The project’s mission is to create one hardcover, 9 X 11 (inches), fully illustrated book every year to be given free of charge to every child in the primary school system with particular focus on the K to 3rd grade population (as the project grows other titles can be created for the rest of the school population). The books will be penned by a local writer and illustrated by a local artist.

• Publish titles that spark the imagination, help children see themselves
in the pages of books, and turn them into avid life-long readers.
• Donate 1 copy of the books from every participating country to the libraries
and primary schools of the other Caribbean countries participating in the
• Engage government, the business sector and the community at large in
children literacy initiatives so that with their help, more local books
are published every year at prices that every parent can afford.
• Turn the release of these books into an important cultural event or a public
party that should be celebrated by the community. The goal is to create
excitement around the presentation of the book and introduce children and
parents to the author and the illustrator who should be available to sign
copies for the children.
• Create an affordable, high quality commercial edition of the books so that
they become available through bookstores in the Caribbean, the USA, Europe
and the rest of the world.
• Distribute and advertise the books in the Caribbean so to improve the
exchange of works by Caribbean writers within the Caribbean.

The creation of this once a year book and event will make books and the creative process of writing and illustrating attain the prominent space that it deserves in a cultural/entertainment landscape dominated by music, sports and other performing arts. If our children can get excited about the release of a CD, DVD, video game or movie, let’s also see them get excited and look forward to the release of a great kid’s book.


For general inquires about how you can learn more, get involved, or if you would like to make a submission, please write to


The Caribbean Children’s Book Project is a new initiative with the purpose of publishing children’s books of quality where preference (not exclusivity) will be given to Caribbean authors and illustrators living in the Caribbean.
Reason: We would like the creators of these books to be available to visit schools, bookstores, libraries, etc. and we particularly want children in the Caribbean to have access to talented people that can also be (local) role models. To meet local authors and illustrators demonstrate the potential that we all have to reach our dreams. The authors and illustrators are great ambassadors of culture that can visit schools, read to the children and discuss the creative process. These are priceless opportunities for the development of self-esteem and to demonstrate the practical aspects of education.
Due to the cost of mailing from the Caribbean we will accept email submissions.
Write to:
Focus on themes of identity and topics children K-Young Adult can relate to in their own environment. If you are a local resident or were born in the Caribbean and would like to submit a manuscript for review, please send a typed version. English and Spanish manuscripts will be considered. We also encourage illustrators who would like to be added to our list to contact us for future projects.
Children need to see themselves and their world in the pages of books, so that they understand that their culture, history and way of life is as worthy as any other to be celebrated in literature. With our very complex Caribbean history it is crucial to supply our youth with every possible tool to help them realize who they are and appreciate where they live. The more our children relate, admire, and understand their immediate world the deeper their roots will grow and their identity will be stronger and better defined. For that they need books, toys, cultural activities and role models to emulate.
Our children are continuously exposed to imported cultural references in the form of books, television shows, movies, and so on. The values and images that many of them come to admire and identify with have little resemblance with their own physical world . As they grow up, they may feel disconnected with their community and with themselves. A displaced identity can result in low self-esteem and rejection of who they are and where they live.
Kids cannot verbalize these concepts, or understand them rationally, and will absorb whatever cultural or educational material they are presented with, oblivious of their future consequences. Helping our children develop a healthy, positive sense of self is the primary motivation behind this project. Books will one of the building blocks, but we hope, with time, to add other educational and recreational products to the initiative.

Read more about the featured titles for the Children’s Holiday Parties and Summer Reading Challenge

U.S. Virgin Islands Summer Reading Challenge 2013
Campanita Books Warmly Welcomes Our Newest Title: “I Am the Virgin Islands”
St.Thomas Source: Kids Meet Local Author At Kickoff of Summer Reading Challenge
U.S. Virgin Islands Summer Reading Challenge, June 2012
Annual Holiday Party of the U.S. Virgin Islands Features “The Lesson Box”, December 2011
Face to Face With Addie Ottley: Rebecca Smock from the Office of the Governor Discusses Summer Reading Challenge
Efa and the Mosquito Featured as Holiday Gift to Children of U.S Virgin Islands, December 2009
U.S. Virgin Islands Selects “A Caribbean Journey” as Holiday Gift to Children, December 2008


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