Under sunny skies and cool breezes Saturday, dozens of students and their parents read, colored, wrote stories, and learned the basics of disaster preparedness during the 6th annual Read on the Green, which took place on the UVI golf course.
The St. Thomas-St. John Library Association (STSJLA), which hosted the event, decided to link reading and emergency preparedness this year, because with the recent earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan and New Zealand it is more relevant than ever.
"We need to get the community prepared for anything and everything," said librarian Merle Vanterpool, one of the chief organizers. "And what better way than through literacy?"
Organizations such as WAPA, FEMA, and the VI Fire Department were all on hand during the afternoon, offering demonstrations, reading materials, and child-friendly learning tools like coloring books to help teach about energy conservation and what to do in a disaster.
The VIFD brought along one of its newest ladder trucks and delighted dozens of children by hoisting them high up in the basket.
In addition to emergency preparedness activities, kids and their parents also had plenty of opportunities to read, write, and be entertained.
The theme of this year’s Read on the Green, which kicks off both the annual Week of the Young Child and National Library Week, was "create your own story at your library."
A mini-workshop was set up in the clubhouse in support of this theme, where younger kids wrote successive chapters in "the never-ending story," and teenagers created their own "fractured fairytales."
Out on the green dozens more sought refuge in the air-conditioned Bookmobile, which carried books for children and adult readers. Others braved the heat and simply flopped on blankets on the grass with a book or two bought from the Friends of the Library used book sale booth.
Librarian Annette Olson, who manned the Bookmobile on Saturday, said that the traveling library had served more than 13,000 people since it launched in 2008. "It’s a well-used asset," she said.
The Governor’s Office donated some of the books on sale, as well as the bags and backpacks which many of the students sported. Water and refreshments were donated by sponsors, which included Bolongo Beach Resort, Cost-U-Less, and PriceMart.
Throughout the afternoon entertainment was provided by the Afro-Antillean Dancers from the Lockhart Elementary School and the Ballroom Dancers from the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School. Two volunteers also painted colorful designs on faces, arms and legs.
Approximately 150 students from 21 schools participated in the event, and each got a free book when registering.
"This is one of the best turnouts we’ve ever had at this event," said Cynthia Richard, treasurer of the STSJLA.
Some schools were more well represented than others. Vanterpoole said that there was a contest to encourage attendance, in which the school with the most attendees would win a prize.
"It’s so wonderful to see so many people engage in such a positive activity," she said. "It makes the community aware of how important reading is."
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.