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Audrey Arredondo, 2, shows off her hand-made bunny ears to her mom, Ashlee Arredondo, during the 2019 Summer Reading Program Kick-Off event, Saturday at Wallace Theater.

The youngest members of the Belvoir community began MWR’s Summer Reading Program with an afternoon of film and fun, courtesy of the library’s “It’s Showtime” movie event. 

“It’s Showtime” was the first of a series of free activities for children, teens, and adults which run through August to encourage and support a love of reading. Participants can win prizes for reaching their reading goals. 

“This is our annual Summer Reading kick-off event and it’s the third time we’ve done a movie party. The aim of Summer Reading is to encourage kids to read for fun over the summer,” said Nilya Carrato, Fort Belvoir Library supervisory librarian. “It’s kind of like sports—if you don’t run in the offseason, you come back slower. So, if you don’t read over the summer, you might go back to school a little behind your grade level. And, that’s cumulative. If you go back two weeks behind every year, by sixth grade, you’re a whole year behind. 

“We’re also tracking our time, until August 10, and kids can come in for prizes when they hit their reading mile markers, depending on the reader’s age. We’re also partnering with the Washington Nationals, so there are even baseball tickets. It’s just a fun way to celebrate the end of the school year and the start of our program,” Carrato said. 

According to Jill Darcy, Belvoir Library technician, MWR and library staff set out to make the kick-off party as fun and exciting as reading can be. 

“Today, we have activities for the kids, like crafts; the bouncy house; music; the photo booth, where attendees could stop by and get a picture taken with props and costumes; popcorn and drinks to get ready for the Summer Reading Program,” Darcy said. “For the Army’s program, the kids keep track of the number of minutes they spend reading, and they receive prizes in various increments, usually 500-minute increments. It can even be fathers and mothers reading to children who don’t yet read, so, even the youngest kids can participate. And we have different programs for the school-age kids and the teens. We even have a raffle today for tickets to a Nats game. Fun is what it’s all about.” 

The “It’s Showtime” event began at 1 p.m. and children and parents made the rounds through the outdoor activities before gathering in Wallace Theater’s main auditorium to watch Sing!, the animated movie featuring a Koala’s desperate attempt to save his beloved theater by hosting a singing competition. The kick-off even featured a red carpet walk at the theater’s entrance. 

Registration for the Summer Reading Program continues through Aug. 10 and the last day to track reading time is Aug. 17. 

The school-age programs, for rising 1st-6th graders, are held in the library on July 11, 18 and 25; Aug. 1, 8 and 15, with each session starting at 2 p.m. 

The teen reading program, for rising seventh-12th graders, are held at various locations (call the library for details) on July 9, 16, 23 and 30; Aug. 6 and 13, also starting at 2 p.m. 

For information about the Belvoir Library’s Summer Reading Program and to register, call 703-805-4244 or visit https://belvoir.armymwr.com/ promos/summer-reading-program.