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TORII STATION, Okinawa — American children on Okinawa are sharing their favorite books with their Okinawan friends — 4,885 books at last count.

The Army Community Group on Okinawa will make a trip Thursday to a northern community on the island with a vehicle loaded with hundreds more English-language books, all donations from American children of the U.S. military community.

Donating books is one of the major activities of ACG, which has about 65 members of all ranks and services in the military community on Okinawa, said Rachelle Dettner, the group’s president.

ACG has sponsored the book program for the past two years, said Jocelyn Daley, ACG’s welfare representative.

The program began in 2006 when a local nonprofit organization, the Ryukyu American Historical Society, approached the American Women’s Welfare Association — ACG’s parent organization — with a request for used English-language children’s books.

"We took it as our cause," Daley said.

English books are precious educational materials that help Okinawan children nurture "global minds," said Alex Kishaba, president of the historical society. He said acquiring English skills is a gateway for Okinawan children to be active in the international arena.

"By having English books readily available in the school libraries, it is our hope that interest in English will rise," he said.

Daley said donation visits to local schools are enthusiastically received. English books are expensive in Japan, she said.

The donations are a kids-helping-kids situation that builds a bridge between the two cultures, she said, adding that ACG members were especially moved by the actions of Miranda Foote, 9, the daughter of one of the group’s members.

"On her birthday, Miranda asked her friends to bring books to donate to Okinawan children instead of birthday gifts for her," Dettner said.

The group’s next donation is scheduled for December, with donations to a school in Nanjo City, she said.

Book drop boxes are placed in base exchanges and gift shops on Camp Foster, Kadena Air Base and Torii Station and at base libraries, Daley said.

For more information about the book drive, visit ACG’s Web site at www.freewebs.com/acgokinawa.


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