St. John Children Receive Books at Rotary Club Book Extravaganza

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Children and parents crowded donated speace at The Martketplace which allowed them to browse through the hundreds of new books made available to St. John students during the summer break by St. John Rotary.

THE MARKETPLACE — Young avid readers filled the second floor of the Marketplace on August 11.

From dinosaurs to princesses, and picture books to biographies, children and their families were enamored by the wide selection of free books that were available.

“Reading is absolutely fundamental for young minds, ” said St. John Rotary Club President Alecia Wells.  “I am very happy with the turnout and that the community took the time out to pick out books.”

The Book Extravaganza was a free book giveaway spearheaded by the St. John Rotary Club with some involvement of the Department of Education.

Wells, along with Rotarian Alice Krall, devotedly managed the event, ensuring that every person who entered was greeted warmly, and that no person left with fewer than ten books.

The event was also held together by the volunteer work of Cristina Kessler, Alethia Sprauve, Susan Knotts, Khaleila Krall, Aariyah Athanase, A’Feyah Smith, and others.

A Wonderful Donation
The tale of this amazing community project begins with a conversation between Mark Van Ness, Julie Edward, and Alice Krall.

“They both had recently moved to the island and we had a chat about some projects they had conducted back in the states” explained Rotarian Alice Krall.

“They conducted a similar event in California and Oregon in 2011 with donations from Bazillion Books for Kids and Better World Books”

The books given out at the Extravaganza were indeed from a company called Better World Books. Better World Books is an online for-profit bookseller that donates copious amounts of books and funds to literacy programs all around the world.

Through the company’s Book For Book initiative, for every book that is purchased from the website, a book is donated to a child in need.

A counter at the top of the Better World Books website humbly displays that over 17 million books have been donated, over $21 million dollars has been raised for literacy programs, and almost 197 million books have been reused or recycled.

After hearing of their exploits, Alice Krall brought the initiative to the capable hands of the St. John Rotary Club.

“Better World Books donated around 70,000 books to the territory as a whole. Around 9,000 or 10,000 of those came to St. John” said Krall.

A True Gift to the Community
The trailer containing the books arrived in the territory on July 21st. The books allocated for St. John arrived the following day.

Since then the books were disseminated to various libraries, camps, and learning institutions across the island.

“Julius E. Sprauve School, Gifft Hill School, and the John’s Folly Learning Institute to name a few” Alice Krall explained.

“We were very successful in getting the word out about this event. We even had a few parents come from St. Thomas to pick out books” said Alecia Wells.

“This was a true gift to the community,” one parent said, expressing her gratitude for the event.  “It is important to instill a love of reading in children, especially in this day and age where children would rather spend more time with a tablet in their hand than a book.”

Plans for a sequel to the Book Extravaganza have been discussed by the Rotary Club, according to President Wells.

“I would like to give out even more books and get more kids reading,” said Wells.  “We may even be able to offer kid-friendly activities like face painting.”

The St. John Rotary Club extended a hearty thank you to all the people who made the event possible.

“Thank you to Debbie Marsh for giving us the space to use, Starfish Market for providing snacks, all the volunteers who spent hours unpacking books, Alice Krall for bringing the initiative to the Rotary Club, Better World Books for their wonderful donation, and to the community for their interest in reading” said Alecia Wells.