First Lady Leads Lockhart Students on "Wild" Journey

First Lady Cecile deJongh introduces the class to Sendak's classic, "Where the Wild Things Are."When First Lady Cecile deJongh arrived at the Lockhart Elementary School library Monday morning, the second-grade students’ faces lit up as they prepared for a fantastic literary journey. Making good on an earlier promise, deJongh returned to the school to read her favorite book, “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.
As a special surprise, deJongh brought along not only the book but stuffed-animal characters from the much-loved story that she set up along the table facing the students.
The children listened attentively as deJongh told the tale of Max and his journey into the wild after being sent to bed without dinner. “How many of you have gone to bed without dinner because you were bad? I know I have,” said deJongh.
School librarian Merle Vanterpool stood to the side with a second copy of the classic book held high, turning pages as deJongh read in order to ensure all 23 students were able to see the pictures and words.
DeJongh encouraged the children to act out the story as she read, first asking everyone to show their “mad” face. And then as the story progressed, deJongh and the students were roaring, rolling their eyes and showing their “terrible claws.”
The book was made into a movie that was released last year but never shown on St. Thomas, so deJongh promised the students that, as long as they behaved and kept up with their schoolwork, she would order the movie and have a movie day with the class.
DeJongh is a proud spokesperson for the Big Read, a literacy program sponsored by the V.I. Arts Council. However, her reading of the Sendak classic came about through another one of her volunteer activities for V.I. children.
While at the school last October to deliver tennis equipment to physical education teachers as part of the Tennis in Parks and Schools program, deJongh was asked by teacher Desiree Gumbs to quickly say hello to Gumbs’ second-grade class.
The students asked deJongh what her favorite book was, and when she replied “Where the Wild Things Are,” she found out that the students had never read the book and that there wasn’t a copy of it in the school library.
With V.I. youth literacy a priority for deJongh, she welcomed the chance to read to the class, sharing with them a book that she and her children had loved to read. During a recent trip to the mainland, deJongh saw the stuffed characters from the book and had to buy them.
“Reading with young children is the perfect way to get them excited about books, literacy efforts and education,” said deJongh. “Unfortunately reading is declining among all age groups, with the steepest decline being felt at the youngest age levels. Taking time to read with children is one of the most important things we can do as parents, as family members and as a community to combat this growing trend and work together towards ensuring our children’s future success, progress and self-fulfillment.”
The children left the library full of smiles as they headed back to class to find a place to display the stuffed animals.
DeJongh, who plans to continue reading to students throughout the territory, donated a copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” to the school library, in addition to the book and stuffed animals given to Gumbs’ class.

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