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BASE Libraries Launch Reading Challenge

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Educators have long known that summer reading bridges the learning gap during the school break between June and September.

With that in mind, Defense Department libraries have kicked off their third annual summer reading program with a challenge to military members and their families to outpace the 10 million minutes they read last summer.

"Last year, we saw a 400 percent increase in participation across the program, and we plan to continue this trend with creative programs that connect with readers of all ages," said Nilya Carrato, program assistant for the Navy General Library Program.

DOD's Morale, Welfare and Recreation division is holding open registration at all of its 250 base libraries this summer, said Larra Clark, with the iRead Summer Reading Program. The program is for both children and adults and is flexible for installation libraries to "tailor it in whatever makes sense in their own community," she said.

Under the theme, ‘Reading is So Delicious!" base libraries may have themed crafts, characters and story time programs for children, and reading challenges and book groups for teens and adults, as some examples, Clark said.

Judy Wiggins, whose husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Lawrence Wiggins is based at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., has taken part in the program with their two children for the past seven years. The couple's daughter, Arielle, 11, and son, Acial, 6, have enjoyed meeting at the base library for the program each week of summer break, Wiggins said.

"With the program, the kids read more and they get prizes," she said. "They express themselves by reading the books they really like. Through the school year, they're busy with homework and reading [textbooks]. When summer comes, they get to choose what they like."

Christine Nelson, wife of Army Sgt. Joseph Nelson, also based at Anacostia-Bolling, homeschools their children, Sophia, 7, and Dirk, 6. She is glad for the hour and a half they can spend at the library each week of summer, making crafts with other children and being introduced to new books.

"It encourages them to read different things, which I'm always happy about," Nelson said.

Last summer, she said, the children made a cardboard castle under the program's theme, "A Midsummer Knight's Read," and had a party at the end of the session.

This year, Sophia has graduated from the Magic Treehouse series to the harder American Girl and Nancy Drew series, she said.

Nelson said she has instilled early reading in her children by letting them choose most of their books, setting aside quiet time each day for reading, and subscribing to the Highlights children's magazine. Also, she said, she and her husband set an example by reading in front of them and limiting TV time.

"We have only one TV in the house," she said. "We don't have any hand-held [electronic games], so that's part of it. We just don't have those things."

Also, Nelson said, "if there's ever a cartoon that they like, we go online to see if there are books, ... because books are always better."

The summer reading program coordinators offer these tips for encouraging children and young adults to read:

- Get involved with your library's summer reading program and other library reading initiatives all year, including book clubs;

- Buy books or bring them home from the library. Access to books in the home is critical to making reading a habit;

- Give books or magazine subscriptions as a gift or reward;

- Set aside time each night for the family to read;

- Share your favorite book with your child or teen and talk about books; and

- Let your children and teens choose their reading material, with your guidance. Reading for fun is an important part of making reading a lifelong habit.

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