By Erica Stiner, Navy MWR Library Program Manager
WASHINGTON – Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, over 200 military installations from around the world participated in the Department of Defense Morale, Welfare and Recreation Summer Reading Program this year.
The DoD MWR Summer Reading Program, scheduled May 18 to September 13, was open to all MWR customers of all ages. The theme “Dig Deeper: Read, Investigate, Discover” encouraged readers to explore their world. Over 43,000 readers read more than 38 million minutes and joined in a wide variety of virtual and at-home activities.
Teens and adults were encouraged to create online accounts to log their reading time. Most installations also awarded badges for completing activities such as borrowing a book from a MWR digital library or investigating their neighborhood on a nature walk.
“The benefits of summer reading are clear,” said Cynthia Shipley, Marine Corps Community Services library program manager. “National research finds that students who participate in library summer reading programs scored higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the next school year than those who did not participate. The mission of DoD MWR libraries is to provide resources and experiences to bridge this summer gap, while inspiring literacy and life-long learning.”
While challenging, the unprecedented situation of COVID-19 provided an opportunity for libraries to develop new program services and communication delivery methods. Many libraries offered curbside pick-up for at-home activity kits and library books, videos and other collection materials. New technology will also continue to play a central role in services as libraries transform from mere book warehouses to community commons that support innovation, life-long learning and collaboration.
Readers could also join the DoD Virtual Summer Reading Program, which was first offered in 2017 as a way for families who did not live near an installation with a reading program to participate. With the pandemic restricting movement and closing facilities, the program expanded to include a spring challenge and encouraged all eligible readers to join. Enrollment reached a record high of over 9,000 readers and 6.5 million minutes logged. Virtual genealogy programs where held, including an introduction to the digital library’s Ancestry and Fold3 databases that have billions of records for users to “dig deeper” into family history. The top adult, teen and child readers and pre-readers in the DoD Virtual Summer Reading Program were Charles with the Army Reserves reading 54,175 minutes; Eliza with Fort Bliss reading 300,060 minutes; Aysia with Malstrom Air Force Base reading 30,549 minutes; and Michael from Joint Base Anacostia-Boling reading 10,488 minutes, respectively.