June 4, 2009 — Challenging Virgin Islands students to read at least five books over their summer vacation, Gov. John deJongh, Jr. gave out free books and a reading log to scores of students this week.
Thursday, deJongh, Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry and a score of volunteers gathered in the St. Croix Central High School gymnasium to kick off the challenge for St. Croix students. The bleachers were filled with elementary, middle school and junior high students from public schools all over the island, all readily identifiable by their color-coded uniforms.
DeJongh spoke about the importance of reading as the backbone of learning and achievement, challenging the students to read more than just five books.
The St. Croix Central High Jazz Band played a bit of brassy, Latin-influenced instrumental jazz while each school went up in turn to get their reading log and two books to start out. Gov. John deJongh Jr. shook each student's hand, encouraging al of them to keep reading. Tuesday, deJongh handed out books on St. Thomas at the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School for the territory-wide challenge.
Angeli Ferdschneider, a special assistant to the governor, coordinated the book challenge.
"Part of what we're trying to do is counter the summer learning loss, when the students are out of school for several months, by getting the kids to read," she said. "Also some kids have very few or even no books at home. This will get books into their houses, on their shelves and bedside tables."
Reading is one of the most important skills you need to be successful and achieve your goals," deJongh wrote in a letter distributed to all the students before the launch of the challenge. "I want to help you become a better reader so I am personally inviting you to participate in my initiative: 'Take the Challenge! Read Five!' I want to challenge you to read as many books as you can this summer. This initiative is a great way for you to build your reading skills over the summer while experiencing the wonders of books."
Students will track their progress in their logs as they read. Upon completion of the first two books, parents sign the tracking forms and return them at designated community distribution centers and students will receive the additional books until they complete all five. DeJongh invites readers taking the challenge to leave him a comment on their progress and on what they are reading at the reading challenge website.
Students who successfully complete reading the five books and turn in the tracking sheets will receive a certificate of completion and have their name printed in the local newspapers and listed on the U.S. Virgin Islands Government website in recognition of their achievement. Students who read at least 10 books will be invited to an end-of-the-summer celebration with deJongh.
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