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DOD libraries launch summer reading program

Librarians throughout DOD are encouraging children and adults to join “A Midsummer Knight’s Read,” an activity-packed reading program that encourages reading throughout the summer. (U.S. Air Force file photo)

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Defense Department libraries have launched a summer reading program in the hopes of inspiring children and adults to read throughout the summer.

Visitors to libraries on 270 military installations around the world are invited to join "A Midsummer Knight's Read," an activity-packed reading program with a medieval twist.

"The idea is to encourage kids to come in and see the library, and look at the books and other materials, (and to) encourage them to participate," said Margie Buchanan,  the libraries division chief for the Air Force Services Agency.

This open-enrollment program lasts for about eight weeks on average, she said, and military family members from all service branches, whether active or Reserve, are welcome to participate.

Some libraries already have kicked off the program with a theme-driven opening event, Ms. Buchanan said, citing a few examples. One library hosted a renaissance fair featuring dancers and jousters and at another, a librarian dressed up as a queen and "knighted" new program participants.

Once the program is under way, libraries typically host weekly events for children and adults, and can pick from a wide array of medieval-minded ideas, Ms. Buchanan said, such as candle-making, planting an herb garden, learning to weave, creating a sorcerer's hat or ballad writing. They also can make snacks such as smothered bread, chocolate toads, dragon's breath candy mix and medieval gingerbread.

The program inspires a love of reading in children, Ms. Buchanan said, and "the activities offer them a chance to learn more about arts and crafts and music."

To track reading progress, library officials ask children to fill out a handwritten log or, in some cases, an online log. Children who participate are asked to complete the books on their own or, for younger children, with the help of a parent. Book choice is left to the reader's discretion, Ms. Buchanan said, noting they can read a variety of fiction and nonfiction.

Libraries offer incentives along the way and, at summer's end, prizes to people with the most books read or with the longest time spent reading, Buchanan said. However, she added, everyone will get a prize, such as a certificate or ribbon.

The program also has an added benefit. Studies indicate there's a significant summertime loss in literacy and learning if kids stop reading, she said, citing a Dominican University study that showed students who read throughout the summer scored better in reading achievement tests in the fall, and had better literacy and analytical skills.

"Students who read recreationally outperform those who don't," she said.

This year marks the second for a DOD-wide summer reading program. Officials adopted a worldwide program last year to pool resources and offer military children consistency when making a summer move, and a way to get involved once they're at their new base, said James Ellis, the program analyst for the Pentagon's office of military community and family policy's morale, welfare and recreation office.

"The summer reading program helps families transition during the busy (moving season) that routinely happens during summer months," he said.

"It's a great program for all our military families," Ms. Buchanan said. "We thought this would be a good way to de-stress and have some fun."

For more on this program, people can stop by their local library or read about it online at Military families who aren't near a base can e-mail to find out how to participate.

Ms. Buchanan also said  a few of the other programs military libraries have to offer this summer, including reading groups, story times, reading program parties, online books, downloadable audio books for car rides, online study guides for summer school attendees and access to, a site that offers free tutoring services 24/7 to military members and their families.

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