Topic: Young Children

Summer is the season of uncertainty for military kids. Is my BFF packing up and heading out? Oh my gosh, are we moving? Where are we going; when do we leave? What if this new place we’re going doesn’t have the sushi place I like? What if their base pool doesn’t have a slide? Leave it to my kids to ask the hard questions.

Any parent — military or not — has their own concerns about summer vacation. Primarily, what in the world are the kids going to do all summer? We want them to fully enjoy those lazy days (or crazy days, if this is your PCS year) without losing all the healthy habits and academics they absorbed during the school year. Luckily, we have options. Chances are ― between city programs, school programs and your installation ― you have an array of summer camps to pick and choose from.  STEM camp, soccer camp, maybe both? While you’re likely to find something age-appropriate your military kids are into, those camps really add up: $100 this week for volleyball camp, $140 the following week for baseball, and don’t forget to factor in swim lessons and the family vacation if you strike summer gold and get to travel. If you have more than one kid to fund, you’re probably thinking about putting in your own application for a summer job at the pool.

Take a little advice from me: exhaust all the free options you can find this summer. Your installation is full of them (for example, the base pool). Before you settle in poolside though, swing into your installation’s MWR library where you’ll  find a snazzy flyer announcing the annual Department of Defense-MWR Summer Reading Program. The program is world-wide and incentivizes summer reading for ALL ages – yep, you too, you lucky MilKid parent! And cha-ching – the participation fees are paid in full for your entire family – hey, that vacation may be possible after all.  Here’s the gist:

  1. Register online by clicking your installation name and following the instructions.
  2. Log your reading.
  3. Scoot into your installation library to claim your prizes when your kids (and you) reach milestones.

Start and end dates vary slightly by installation, but all kick off in June. Check with your MWR Library now so you can start logging day one. The books you log don’t necessarily have to come from your installation library, if there’s a library closer to you or if you have a bookshelf full of enticing titles you’ve been meaning to read. And for those book-loving families living in remote locations, MWR didn’t forget about you, there’s a virtual program already paid for just waiting for you.

This will be our family’s third year participating in the Summer Reading Program, and we’ve already been snooping around our base library for information. Our kids — an incoming third grader who loves funny novels, and an incoming first grader who can read on her own for the first summer — are itching to get started. In past years, we’ve earned growth charts, cool pens, highlighters, backpacks, tote bags, t-shirts and stuffed animals. Prizes are age-specific, so don’t worry about your toy-loving 7-year-old getting a tote bag; that’s mama’s prize.

Reading truly is the one-size-fits-all summer activity. Read outdoors in the park or poolside, read in the car or the plane. Read when you’re visiting the grandma who doesn’t have TV. Read inside when there’s summer thunder happening or when it’s so hot that you break a sweat just walking to the car. It’s universal, portable, and it keeps the rust off of all the learning that happened during the school year. And, if you have reluctant readers who would rather be doing something “more fun” or “cooler” with their care-free summer days, just dangle the possibility of earning those sweet prizes (and a little friendly competition with the other participants in the family).

So don’t waste a minute, get registered and get logging!