Children of all ages gathered at the Base Library June 13 for the kickoff of this year’s annual Department of Defense-sponsored Summer Reading Program.
The program aims to keep children interested in reading during the months that school is not in session. It combines reading with live demonstrations and events at the library.
For the first event, special guests from the 412th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog unit were a perfect fit for this year’s theme, “Paws to Read.”
Tech. Sgt. Ian Spivey, 412th Security Forces Squadron, MWD kennel master, spoke to the children and their parents through the demonstration, explaining each of the basic Military Working Dog skills. The demonstration included both on and off-leash obedience and controlled aggression.
Laid out in front of where the children sat were hard and soft bite sleeves, a bite suit top and an attack muzzle all of which are used in training the dogs to use controlled aggression. Also shown were basic grooming tools used to care for the dogs daily.
By showcasing some of the MWD’s basic skills, Spivey and his team hoped to give the children an opportunity to see that hard work and determination can lead to success.
“We enjoy the opportunity to show off our partners, Military Working Dogs, and their capabilities,” said Spivey. “And making the kids smile is always a plus. It also gives the 412th SFS MWD section a chance to strengthen rapport between Edwards AFB and the community.”
Alison Vasquez, the library director, said the demonstration is meant to get the children thinking and asking questions.
“Our customers have told us in the past that they had no idea how the dogs are trained,” said Vasquez. “The children will start inquiring about dogs and how you can train them, how they can learn to be obedient and how helpful they are to security forces.”
“We always enjoy putting on demonstrations for the base and community,” said Spivey. “To this date, we have conducted over 30 demos for boy scouts, girl scouts, JROTC, and many more. Anytime we can show off the hard work and bond between the Handlers and their partners is an enjoyment for us. We also hope to inspire future Military Working Dog handlers one day if they decide to join the military.”
Following the demonstration, the children were invited to re-group in the library for refreshments and time to read.
Next week, children can expect a visit from the Edward’s Royal Court, and the following week, Environmental Management. During that week, the children will learn about wildlife and have an opportunity to see some of the wild animals that can be found on base.
Each child that participates in the program receives a themed book bag, bookmark, pencil, foam mask and a t-shirt. The theme is designed around the main character of a children’s book, “Rocket Writes a Story” about a dog named Rocket.
The program lasts 10 weeks, ending with the grand finale Aug. 15. Children will receive a prize for every 10 books they read, up to 100 books. If a student completes all 100 books during the program they will be entered into a raffle for the largest prizes on the last day.
“Once children are out of school, they don’t want to know anything about school or homework or anything related to it,” said Vasquez. “For parents it’s very important to keep children interested in reading and this program definitely helps them do that. The children look forward to coming to the library to turn in their reading logs and get a reward for it.”
Last year, the library had more than 400 children sign up for the program and collectively read over 14,000 books. This year, the library staff hopes to see the children exceed their goal of 20,000 books.
Vasquez believes they will be able to reach their goal. “This year is the second week of the program and we already have more than 240 children signed up just in two weeks and we’re expecting a lot more to sign up.”