April 18, 2008 — Scattered across a large portion of the University of Virgin Islands golf course Friday, elementary school students from across St. Thomas cuddled up on blankets, towels and mats and listened intently to a wide range of stories read out loud by their teachers and parents during this year's Read on the Green.
The annual event is held in observance of the Week of the Young Child, which runs from April 14 to 19, and National Libraries Week, which runs from April 13 to 19. Organizers tied the two celebrations together this year by emphasizing the importance of early childhood education with the unveiling of St. Thomas' new bookmobile, and by teaching students how to use the Dewey Decimal System.
Booths set up on one half of the course offered students various educational activities — such as a lesson on how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly — and were lined up in accordance with their subject matter and Dewey Decimal number. While youngsters frequented the booths throughout the morning, most of their stops either ended or began with a visit to the bookmobile — a gleaming white bus piled from top to bottom with bestsellers and popular titles for both children and adults.
St. Croix's bookmobile started running about two months ago, and became an instant success, according to Cecile deJongh, who was on hand to commemorate the event.
"The governor and I — our whole family — are passionate readers and love to promote reading, and this bookmobile is part of that," deJongh said.
Funds for the mobile, which is estimated to cost upwards of $260,000, came out of a three-year-old appropriation made for repairs to libraries on all three islands, along with the purchase of mobiles for both St. Thomas and St. Croix, explained Claudette Lewis, former assistant commissioner at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. In addition to being piled with books, the mobile is equipped with computer stations — hooked up to the Internet, of course — and the latest in audio/visual technology. Handicapped access is also available.
"Anything you can do in a library, you can right here in this book mobile — like getting your library card." said Donald "Ducks" Cole, assistant director of DPNR's Division of Libraries, Museums and Archives. "There will be a set schedule once it gets up and running, with stops at different schools, housing communities, churches — anywhere with children who are ready to read."
The mobile will be maintained by the Department of Public Works, Lewis added.
"It's actually a brand new VITRAN bus, which we already know is able to handle the roads and terrain," she said. "So, Public Works is going to maintain it in their fleet, but instead of carrying passengers, we'll be carrying books."
Read on the Green is a collaborative effort between schools and public and academic libraries, including the St. Thomas-St. John Primary Grades Division and Media Library Service, DPNR, Enid M. Baa Public Library and the UVI Paiewonsky Library.
The event continues on Saturday, from 12 to 5 p.m. Families are encouraged to come prepared blankets, chairs and their favorite books, according to an Education Department press release.
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