Weekly library service strengthens base community

  • Published
  • By Kevin Chandler
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
As storm clouds dominated the Southwest Oklahoma sky April 16, bringing howling winds and pelting rain, clouds and wind also swept through the quiet stacks at the base library. Master Sgt. James Howard, flight chief for the 97th Operations Support Squadron's weather flight, shared two books on weather in what has become a treasured pastime for Altus youth.

Indeed the highlight of National Library Week for the children of Altus AFB was an event local families have grown partial to. For as long as many can remember, every Thursday morning the library has hosted a weekly "story time" hour.

Ms. Cheryl McLean, library technician, has worked in the library for six years and said the program was in place long before she arrived. "We usually have around 15 or 20 people here every week," she added. Participants are treated to a couple of good books and make crafts afterward.

Sergeant Howard encouraged other Airmen to come and take part in the weekly activity, and said reading the books benefited him as much as the children.

"Telling children about what I do gives me a break from the science aspect of my job," he explained, "it puts some of the romance back in the sky."

According to Sergeant Howard, reading books to kids is a familiar experience, one he sees as crucial to raising children. "My family believes strongly that reading is important," he said. Sergeant Howard said his daughters, seven and four years old, are being raised to understand the value of a good book.

Attending the library's "story time" hour convinces other children of that value as well. 2nd Lt. Buddy McNeal and his wife Stephanie recently moved to Altus from Columbus, Miss. Lieutenant McNeal is a student pilot training to fly the C-17 Globemaster III. They brought their four-year-old daughter Chasity to the library to meet some new friends and enjoy a good story.

"Our daughter loved it," Ms. McNeal said, "it's a great way for her to meet new people. It seems like the military is trying to reach our children." In fact, April is the Month of the Military Child and many bases are hosting various activities to appreciate the particular challenges associated with having parents who move and deploy around the world.

Sergeant Howard also spoke on the importance and effect of such programs on Air Force children. "It gives me another avenue to get involved with my child's upbringing and their lives.

"Everything that a child of a military member has to go through growing up in life - all of the movements, parents being gone for extended periods of time due to deployments, I feel that the programs that we have, there's nothing that's more important," he continued.

Beginning this summer, the library will have even more activities for military children. Ms. McLean will soon send a letter to area elementary schools informing parents on the reading program held every Wednesday at 2 p.m. from mid-June through July. Also, every Thursday at 10 a.m. pre-schoolers can take part in the "Creativity at Your Library" program. "We will begin registering for these programs once school is out," Ms. McLean said.