Building a Better World in American Samoa

Building a Better World in American Samoa

One child and one book at a time

Public Issue

The Brigham Young University (BYU) Alumni Association of American Samoa joined forces with the Feleti Barstow Public Library, the American Samoa Community College (ASCC), local businesses and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to promote reading among children in American Samoa.

Their objective was to kindle and nurture a love of reading in children 5 to 12 years old, and to help mitigate the loss of reading skills that commonly occurs over the summer break.

                                        

Classes were taught for three hours every Tuesday and Thursday for a six-week period over the summer. During that time, over 200 children participated and logged more than 141,000 minutes of reading in this Build a Better World Summer Reading Program.

                              

The reading program was offered on the island’s west side, Tualauta County, from June 20 through July 27 at the LDS Church’s meetinghouse in Malaeimi.

Hundreds of volunteer hours were contributed by BYU Alumni Association members, parents and older siblings of participants, ASCC student teachers, and LDS missionaries. The largest group of volunteers (22) from ASCC were able to fulfill their student teacher practicum by teaching in the program.

                                            

Dorothy Craig, a mother of one of the students attending the program, expressed gratitude towards the BYU Alumni Association Chairperson, Luisa Kuaea, “Thank you and your team for all you have done for our children. Such an awesome program of encouraging kids to read! And getting them to think and ask questions all the time. And I mean all the time. Lol… Mom, what is .....? Why does......? You guys are awesome!”

Additionally, while their children were in their reading classes, several parents chose to attend and participate in the free English class that was offered for adults. The ASCC Adult Literacy Department provided an instructor to teach and help parents become more familiar with reading and speaking English.

Thanks to the American Samoa Government’s Department of Education School Lunch Program, breakfast was provided each morning for the children. To nurture their love of reading, each student received two books as gifts to take home at the end of the program. The books were donated by local businesses and by BYU Alumni and LDS members overseas.

                                       

Reflecting on the number of families that came out, the enthusiasm for learning that the children displayed, the change in perspective towards reading, and the miraculous way things came together, Luisa Kuaea commented: “We started planning approximately three weeks before the launch date and had no idea how it would be received. We had no budget and very minimal resources. All we really had was a whole lot of faith and love for the children of our island.”

                                                          

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages people to educate their minds, improve their skills, and perfect their abilities so that we can better influence the world for good, provide for ourselves, our family, and those in need, and build God’s kingdom. President Gordon B. Hinckley, a beloved president of the church taught, “We (members of the Church) have an obligation to train our hands and minds to excel in the work of the world, for the blessing of all mankind.”

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