Despite the political demonstration going on around him at the Legislature building on St. Thomas, kindergarten student Ki’Mani Thomas could not put down his copy of “The Fisherman’s Horn.”
And this is exactly what the nearly 40 people who gathered Wednesday for the Save our Libraries rally want children like him to do.
“We need to have our kids more engaged in reading,” Ki’Mani’s grandmother and Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries board member Deborah Gonzales said.
Sen. Janette Millin-Young and Sen. Patrick Sprauve also attended the rally, which organizers hoped would raise awareness of the need for well-funded, -stocked and -staffed public libraries across the territory. Friends members said they have found an ally in Young, who in July expressed alarmed over the territory having only three public librarians on staff and ten other library positions vacant.
At the rally, Friends members presented the senators with books and said they want the community’s libraries to be open more often, be given more operating revenue and have more Caribbean authors in their collections.
Eudora Kean High School senior Shahara-Ann Donastorg said there is an urgent need to get more of her fellow students engaged in reading, as the act improves readers’ grasp of grammar and broadens their vocabulary.
“We actually write how we speak in the Virgin Islands – and that’s really, really not good,” Donastorg said.
Donastorg said about half of her fellow high school students tend to write how they talk instead of in standard academic English. This puts them at a disadvantage when they go onto college and enter the work world, Donastorg said.
Friends members pressed the senators about when the long-awaited Charles W. Turnbull Library in Tutu Park will open.
Millin-Young said the completion date has been pushed back again to December, and that she would work to hold contractors to this deadline.
Learn more about the Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries at www.fostpl.org.