The popularity of all things British may go back to the 1960s when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones took Americans by storm, but the feeling has never waned.

Today the Brits are as popular here as ever — from the boy band One Direction to the PBS series “Downton Abbey” to the birth of Prince George of Cambridge last summer.

If you’ve always wanted to go, but never found the time or money, now’s your chance. The Missourian is taking readers on a trip across “the pond” this summer through its annual Summer Reading Program.

Nell Whitaker, a native of England who was an intern at The Missourian this spring, has written a series of features about her country, including an explanation of the difference between the names England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, a description of the various accents heard across the country, and what school is like there.

Dawn Kitchell, educational services director at The Missourian, is excited to share this series with readers, especially children. Twice before the newspaper has made foreign countries the focus of the summer reading series — in 2011 with a family from Marbach, Germany, and in 2013 with the foreign exchange students who attended Washington High School that year — and both were extremely popular.

“We had such positive feedback from those that I knew that having Nell here was a great opportunity to teach young people about her country,” said Kitchell.

“And she is a great writer, young and energetic, just vivacious.”

The Summer Reading Program, “Reading Takes You Places,” will begin next weekend in the May 24-25 issue and continue with one installment in each weekend issue through July 12-13.

Every child who participates in The Missourian’s Summer Reading Program by reading the series will earn a free ticket to the Washington Town and Country Fair for Thursday, Aug. 7. That same night, beginning at 5:30 p.m., the newspaper will hold its annual Reader Recognition Ceremony in the Family Fun Center.

Proud to Share Her Country

Whitaker came to America to learn about our country and understand what life here is really like, so she was more than happy to do the same for Missourian readers regarding her country.

“I thought that if I could bring some understanding of the U.K. over through the Summer Reading Program, I would be giving something back,” she said.

Whitaker hopes readers will come away with some understanding, not only of where she comes from but also where our country originated.

“America fascinates me because the original settlers were British and the country was British until 1783 — and to watch how the two countries have developed differently from that point on is very interesting,” Whitaker said. “We share so much culturally that it is important to be familiar with one another and to celebrate our similarities and differences.

“I hope that I encourage young people to think about visiting the U.K., maybe when they are older,” she added. “It is a funny old place which is full of history – and very good fudge!”

In researching and writing the installments for the series, Whitaker was surprised to learn a few things she didn’t know.

“For example, I didn’t know before that the whole of the U.K. was just smaller than the state of Oregon,” she commented. “It was fun to put into words all the things which I have loved since getting into the U.S., and to compare them with my experiences at home.”

Whitaker found the installment about government and politics difficult to write about without getting too complicated.

“Britain has a peculiar political system which has been formed over hundreds of years and so it is hard to understand, let alone explain,” she said. “I felt that this was very important to include, as it is different to the American system while having similar values.

“It was also hard to explain the differences between the names we use — British Isles, the United Kingdom, etc. I hope that I made sense in the end!”

Writing about the British food was something Whitaker also felt was important.

“It’s not as bad as its reputation, I promise,” she remarked. “I felt that I needed to explain just how excellent the pork pie really is!”

How to Participate

Participating in The Missourian’s summer reading program is easy, and it begins with pulling out the Summer Reader Booklet inserted in this issue of the newspaper.

The booklet includes the summer events schedule for both the Washington Public and Scenic Regional libraries, as well as the schedule of events at this year’s Washington Town and Country Fair Family Fun Center and an introduction to Whitaker.

The booklet also includes the entry form young readers will need to complete to earn their free child’s ticket to the Washington Town and Country Fair.

On the form, there is a place where children can paste the eight icons that will appear with each segment of “Reading Takes You Places” in the Weekend Missourian.

Once readers have collected all eight icons, they mail or submit the form to the Washington Town and Country Fair office in Downtown Washington.

Families with multiple children participating need only submit one entry form with each child’s name included.

To make it even easier for children to participate in The Missourian’s Summer Reading Program, the newspaper will offer students a special summer subscription.

“We have thousands of kids who receive the newspaper at school through our Missourian In Education program,” Kitchell said. “They can access the story at their local library to participate in the program and make copies of the icon to paste on their entry form, but we created the student summer subscription to offer a low-cost opportunity for them to receive the newspaper at home.”

To begin your summer student subscription, call 636-390-3029. Complete rules for The Missourian’s summer reading program are available on the Missourian In Education page at

Reader Recognition Ceremony

This year’s Reader Recognition Ceremony at the Washington Town and Country Fair, to reward all of the children who participated in The Missourian’s Summer Reading Series, will begin at 5:30 p.m. this year. The program will follow the same format as last year, which was different than in years past.

The focus will be on one book, and copies of that book will be given to every family that attends, while supplies last, compliments of The Bank of Franklin County, which has sponsored The Missourian’s summer reading program since its inception in 2001.

The story will be acted out on stage by Fair Chairman Paul Brune and others.

One thing that won’t change at the Reader Recognition Ceremony is awarding the grand prize basket filled with Book Buzz Picks, Fair memorabilia, a 2015 Fair pass and Bank of Franklin County Visa gift card.

All of the children who complete The Missourian’s Summer Reading Program will have their name entered into a drawing for the basket which will be held and presented that night.

The Missourian’s Summer Reading Program is sponsored by The Bank of Franklin County and the Washington Town and Country Fair.

Photo Contest Scavenger Hunt

In addition to the Summer Reading Program, The Missourian is offering children ages 9 to 13 another summer fun activity — a photo contest scavenger hunt inspired by the book “Half a Chance” by Cynthia Lord, which will be a June Book Buzz Pick.

In the story, Lucy is a 12-year-old girl who loves taking photos, just like her father, who works as a professional photographer and travels a lot for his job. The family has just moved to a new state and Lucy is lonesome. She enters a photography contest that includes taking photos of things that illustrate certain words and phrases, like sticky, which Lucy illustrates with a photo of a melting banana split.

“Everyone can have different interpretation of that word,” said Kitchell, noting that’s both the challenge and fun of the contest.

There are 26 words/phrases included in The Missourian’s scavenger hunt photo contest, and it’s exactly the same list of 26 words/phrases used in the book. Children will find the list in the Summer Reader Booklet.

To enter the contest, children should download one photo for each word/phrase to a CD and mail or drop it off at The Missourian, 14 W. Main St., in Downtown Washington. The deadline to enter is Aug. 1.

One winner will receive a new camera as a prize, and runners-up will receive autographed copies of “Half a Chance.”

“We hope the photo contest will encourage children to read the book,” said Kitchell. “But we also hope it encourages them to step back and notice their environment. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in what’s on our screens that we don’t pay any attention to what’s beyond. Summer is a great time to help kids see that.”