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Libraries inspire military children to read

WASHINGTON -- Defense Department library officials have embarked on their first departmentwide summer reading program in hopes of encouraging military children to keep their reading skills sharp during the summer.

More than 250 base libraries will soon set off on "Voyage to Book Island," an activity-packed reading program in which children are asked to complete four to six books over the course of the summer, said Nilya Carrato, the program assistant for the Navy General Library Program.

While service and installation libraries have sponsored their own programs in the past, "Voyage to Book Island" marks the first departmentwide summer reading program, Ms. Carrato said. This consistency pools resources and enables military children who move this summer to pick up the program, where they left off, at their new installation.

"Especially with all the movement, we want to make sure kids get as much of an advantage as everyone else," Ms. Carrato said. "Plus, it's fun."

Most programs will run for eight weeks with open enrollment throughout the summer, according to a program news release. Activities will vary by location and will include everything from a tropical pool party to the SS Sigonella Storytime. Incentive prizes include bookmarks, T-shirts, stickers and puzzles.

Children who participate are asked to complete the books on their own or, for younger children, with the help of a parent, Ms. Carrato said.

Book choice is left to the reader's discretion, she added, noting that they can read a variety of fiction and nonfiction, or even the same book several times if they'd like.

Some libraries will offer an online log to track reading progress, while others will use a handwritten log. The libraries with online tracking capabilities offer an added bonus: reserve-component access, Ms. Carrato noted.

No matter the distance, Reserve and guard families can participate in the program by e-mailing, and they'll be put in touch with a base with online program capabilities, she added.

The program is worth pursuing, Ms. Carrato said, especially since reading practice is vital to young learners. Studies show that children who don't practice reading over the course of the summer may be two to three months behind at the start of the school year. And this effect can be cumulative.

"By the time you leave sixth grade, you could be up to a year behind in reading," she said. "If you keep engaged, you'll be ready to move forward instead of playing catch up."

And for young children, being read to can be just as helpful as practicing reading themselves, she noted.

For installations without a library, Ms. Carrato suggested parents check with their local child and youth program or local summer camp to see if they're participating in the program.

Ms. Carrato also pointed out 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.