When Crystal Butts handed the MCAS New River second graders brand new copies of “The Cat in the Hat," she was thrilled to see their collective eyes light up. No electronics were in sight and still, “they were overjoyed,” said Butts, the Blue Star Families Camp Lejeune Chapter Director. The event was part of Blue Star Families multi-chapter Read Across America event held on Friday, March 1.
Besides the MCAS New River function, BSF hosted read-alongs at eight other locations including Fort Bliss, Texas; Quantico, Va.; and Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
This year’s Read Across America theme, which honors the life and work of Dr. Seuss, was “Grab your Hat and Read with the Cat.” The Read Across America campaign is headed by the National Education Association. This is the program’s 16th year, working to motivate children and teens to read through events, partnerships and reading resources.
Books on Bases launched in 2009 with a small event in Fayetteville, N.C., and has grown to a major outreach program that’s donated more than 100,000 books to military-impacted libraries, schools and child development centers.
"Books on Bases is an incredible program that was created to help military children with literacy skills, but to also build a strong love for reading,” said Books on Bases Program Manager Janet McIntosh. “Blue Star Families wants to help by placing books in the hands of our military children, but also by providing parents with tools they can use to help foster a love for reading at home as well."
“I think Books on Bases benefits military families because it gives them an outlet when they might have a parent away and encourages to turn to books for comfort, adventure and learning,” added Butts who, like other chapter directors, looked for Seussical Pinspiration on Pinterest and created hats and other fun crafts to engage the children.
McIntosh also developed an online parent kit that includes activity sheets, tips for parents on reading to children, a word search and more. It’s no secret that reading helps young children be better listeners, perform better in school, and develop larger vocabularies. And for military children, who often bounce around to different schools, building a strong foundation for reading is crucial. It’s why Blue Star Families created Books on Bases and why the non-profit is committed to donating more than 10,000 books this year. The kids aren’t the only ones who benefit.
“It also boosts the morale of military parents,” said Marianne Fontillas, Blue Star Families New Jersey chapter director. “When they see other people giving their kids time, care and attention, they won’t feel so alone in their sacrifices.”
World Read Aloud Day is scheduled for March 6 and Blue Star Families’ Books on Bases is preparing four classroom outreach events in Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Meade, Md.; Pennsylvania and in Stuttgart, Germany, where Carmen Carlisle, the BSF chapter director, will read to first-grade and third-grade students. The students at all of these events will be presented with books that they may keep.