Whether you have travel plans for this summer or not, The Missourian is treating all of its readers to a trip, of sorts, around the world, and you won’t even have to pack a bag or find your passport.
All you will need is your weekend Missourian, because this year, the newspaper is focusing its annual summer reading program on the seven foreign exchange students who spent the last school year studying at Washington High School.
The students’ home countries include Brazil, Pakistan, Spain, China, Tajikistan, Italy and Azerbaijan.
Beginning with the June 1-2 issue of The Missourian, each week the newspaper will feature a different student and his or her home country.
Much like the popular 2011 summer reading program, “One World, Their Story,” where The Missourian featured a German family with weekly reports about what their daily lives were like and how that compared to life in America, this year’s program, “Diggin’ Our Differences,” will put the spotlight each week on one of the students with details on family life, food, their native language and how school works in their home country, what they do for fun with friends, how much things cost in their home country, how they celebrate holidays or information on annual festivals and their experiences in America.
Dawn Kitchell, The Missourian’s educational services director who plans the annual summer reading program each year, said the inspiration for this year’s theme came straight from readers.
In a reader survey conducted last year, Kitchell asked for feedback on the previous five summer reading programs, and she learned that not only was “One World, Their Story” her favorite, it was the majority of readers’ too.
“That was overwhelmingly the most popular summer series,” said Kitchell.
The result fit right in with an award the series received from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) last July in Bangkok during the Asia-Pacific Young Reader Summit.
WAN-IFRA annually awards World Young Reader Prizes to newspapers that have devised the best project or activity to attract young readers.
The Missourian was the smallest circulation publication to be recognized by the international organization and the only newspaper in the continental United States.
In notifying The Missourian it had been selected for a Young Reader Prize, Dr. Aralynn McMane, executive director, young readership development, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, said, “I must say it was a very easy decision for our jury,” which concluded:
“This is another of those rare, very original but simple ideas that most any paper could adapt and use, even if they don’t have a ‘sister city.’ We particularly liked the visuals and informational graphics.”
Kitchell had been wanting to replicate that experience for readers ever since, and this year found the opportunity with foreign exchange students living right here in the community.
Trying Some New Things
This year’s summer reading program will run seven weeks this year.
The Summer Reading series will begin with a feature in the June 1-2 issue and continue in each Weekend Missourian through the July 13-14 issue.
Wrapping up a week earlier will give the Washington Town and Country Fair — which sponsors the program by providing a free Thursday Fair ticket to every child (ages 4 to 15) who completes the program — more time to get those free Fair tickets in the mail.
Past program participants will notice that the age bracket for children has been expanded from 6-13 to 4-15.
They also will see a few changes at the annual Reader Recognition Night held Thursday evening in the Fair’s Family Fun Center, said Kitchell, noting all are in response to feedback she received from the same reader survey mentioned earlier.
Because of the large crowd of several hundred children and families who attend the event each year, it’s often hard for everyone to hear and see the books being read by local “celebrity” readers on stage.
“We kind of always knew that, but the survey confirmed it,” said Kitchell. “So we brainstormed about how we could still meet our mission of sharing good stories to promote family reading, but in that environment.”
That’s why this year organizers will focus on one book (a past Book Buzz Pick) at the event, in order to make that a better reading experience for everyone.
The Bank of Franklin County, which has sponsored The Missourian’s summer reading program since its inception in 2001, has agreed to purchase enough copies of the book so that each family will be given one to take home to read together again and again.
“We’re so grateful for Bank of Franklin County’s continued generosity and excited about giving away these books this year,” Kitchell said. “We know the Fair is all about making family memories and we think this will be an experience that families can continue to share.”
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 2014 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.
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 the seven foreign exchange students readers will meet over the course of the program.
The booklet also includes the entry form readers will need to complete to earn their free child’s ticket to the Washington Town and Country Fair for Thursday, Aug. 8, when the Reader Recognition Ceremony will be held at 5 p.m.
On the form, there is a place where children can paste the seven icons that will appear with each segment of “Diggin’ Our Differences” in the Weekend Missourian.
Once readers have collected all seven icons, they mail or submit the form to the Washington Town and Country Fair office in Downtown Washington.
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, but we created the student summer subscription to offer a very low-cost opportunity for them to receive the newspaper at their 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 www.emissourian.com.
The Missourian’s Summer Reading Program is sponsored by The Bank of Franklin County (since 2001) and the Washington Town and Country Fair (since 2005).