For the first time the Defense Department's summer reading program is available online -- and offers free by-mail prizes to readers.
No word on exactly what these prizes are, except that they are first come, first serve. But their existence is enough to motivate my 8-year-old to keep his nose in a book on our lazy summer days.
The Defense Department has operated a summer reading program through libraries on bases worldwide since 2010, with 200 participating this year, officials said. But the online option for those who don't live near a participating base (or who can't make it to the summer reading programs, which are typically during the work day) is completely new.
Last year, participants at the in-person programs logged over 38 million minutes reading. This year, perhaps thanks in part to advertising on non-DoD websites (which is how I found out about it), the virtual program had already logged 676 new accounts created by parents, 1,310 readers and 17,000 minutes by June 1, officials said.
Prizes are sent by snail-mail on a first-come basis, although we are still not sure what that means. One thing is for sure: DoD officials really want your family to participate.
"Research shows that students score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer," Charles Milam, the acting head of DoD's Military Community and Family Policy office said in a statement. "Studies also indicate that students who read recreationally out-perform those who don't. Students read more when they can choose materials based on their own interests. We encourage maximum participation.”
Parents can sign kids up on the virtual reading program website and start logging minutes right away. The program runs through the end of July, so you have plenty of time to log those minutes for your kiddo -- and of course minutes of reading out loud to kids count, too. You don't need a base library card to participate. Get going!