With the growth in the Internet and more and more computers in the home, many libraries are finding that fewer and fewer people are using library services. However, many small children in the U.S. still enjoy going to the library to read books and being read to by librarians and volunteers. In the Virgin Islands, most kids do not know the joy of going to the library because reading is not promoted here in the territory. Mature individuals also do not use our libraries, as it's much easier to purchase books at a bookstore, and, if one is fortunate, research can be done from a home computer.
The concept of "the more you know, the farther you go" should be our constant message to our children. As a member of the board of directors of the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries, I would like to promote the importance of encouraging our children to appreciate reading. Many children do not have the opportunity to see other parts of the world, and for those who are lucky enough to visit, most are too young to appreciate the experience seeing something new.
Although all schools have libraries, I suggest that principals encourage teachers to make more field trips to the Enid M. Baa Library. Individuals in charge of youth groups should do the same. I also encourage the leaders of youth groups such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Majorettes, Little League Baseball teams and Boys and Girls Clubs to take children on field trips to the libraries.
Most young Virgin Islanders' perceptions of life off-island are shaped by what they view on television. Many of our children may never have a chance to explore the world other than through a world created for them through music videos, sitcoms, news bites and commentaries — all of which are generated from the minds of others who decide what we should know and what we should see.
Reading can bring the world to our children and stretch their imaginations. Reading can make them laugh and make them cry. But more important, reading can make them think! Reading can serve to increase our children's awareness and open their minds to new ideas. Reading can feed their natural curiosity and desire to know "why." Reading can awaken creativity, expand their minds and imagination, and hopefully encourage them to dream.
I would like to see each of us adults, as parents, mentors and role models, work to change the perception here in the territory that reading outside the classroom is not important. We must all begin to encourage our children to learn to appreciate the value of reading and learning .Our children should know that they can travel anywhere in the world for free through books. They can learn a new language, learn to garden or learn about our history in a weekend.
Books can open a whole new world to our children and open their minds as well Books can introduce us to friends when we are lonely. They can ease our minds in times of worry. They can educate us when we are unsure of the facts. Books can fill our time we are without something to do. Books can teach us new crafts, how to repair a car or use a computer. They can suggest how we can improve our health and our minds.
I urge each of you to give the gift of reading to our children today and change a life. Reading is one of the few things left in life that has the power to change our lives for the better and is absolutely free through our local libraries.
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