The Defense Department in conjunction with the Armed Services YMCA and the United States Naval Institute held a brief ceremony July 23, 1997 to honor the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation General Library Chiefs for each of the military departments. The ceremony was sponsored by the Armed Services YMCA as part of the close-out activities for this year's Young Readers Project and was hosted by Fred Pang, acting under secretary of defense for Personnel and Readiness.
The ceremony recognized the important contribution libraries, librarians, and library staff make to the quality of life of our Armed Forces. The Young Readers Project was created in support of President Clinton's educational objectives, which this year stressed the value and importance of reading, computer literacy, and using the internet. In support of the Office of the Secretary of Defense's quality of life initiatives, the project encouraged children in four categories to submit essays on the value and the importance of reading. MWR libraries and Department of Defense Dependent Schools around the world provided internet access to children so that they could transmit their essay submission to the Armed Services YMCA headquarters in Springfield, Va.
The Armed Services YMCA views the Young Readers project as a program to strengthen reading skills among our young students; but equally important, it is a powerful tool to bring families together by encouraging individual and family reading. The breadth of the response to the essay contest was totally unexpected. There were over 4,200 essays submitted from families around the world. Many were from children living in military communities, but others came from isolated areas far from installation support networks, including embassies and other isolated assignments.