I recently received three fabulous new books for my son.
1. Malcom Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz
2. Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History… and Our Future
3. The Never Snowy Christmas by Zenzi Hodge
I was incredibly excited to sit down and read these texts with him. As a mother, scholar, and activist I’m always examining and re-examining knowledge as sites of power, historical narratives, and the importance of systems of representation. Unfortunately, the education that I received in school didn’t always teach me everything that I needed or wanted to know about the marginalized communities that I was a part of. I was lucky to have parents who did their best to fill the gaps in my schools’ curriculum. I was encouraged to read avidly, ask critical questions, and float my own theories about the world around me and my location in it.
However, let’s be real. The price of books add up. Reading is fundamental but it can also expensive. Unfortunately, we don’t have an open public library on St. John at the moment. When the library was open, it’s hours of operation often coincided with the times of day that students were at school. This severely limited students’ access to free reading resources as the library was closed at the times when students would be be most likely to visit. If books are hard to come by, reading becomes a privilege.
If you check out the Virgin Islands’ Territorial Assessment of Learning, you will find that our present situation leaves a lot to be desired. In 2011, our students’ reading proficiency levels ranged from 28.5% to 52.2%. This means that, on average, over half of our students in the territory are not proficient readers.
In the interest of decolonizing the USVI and ensuring that all of our children are well equipped with the skills that they need and want to live loving and fulfilling lives, I want to float an idea. Let’s create a “Love City Books on Wheels program” on St. John. We can deck out an old bus and fill it with donated books for children of all ages. The bus can also host regular reading circles for our young people. I hope, ideally, that students will also find books in the mix that they are welcome to keep. We can work collaboratively with St. Thomas and St. Croix as well. The initiative would increase island wide (and territory wide) access to free reading material. If students are to improve their reading skills, they will need practice and tons of it. I understand that the Elaine Sprauve Library on St. John is presently closed while the search for a librarian continues. However, our young children really can’t wait for us to get past the red tape.