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Volunteer Walter Reece reads to the children of Sagami Housing Area during story hour.

Volunteer Walter Reece reads to the children of Sagami Housing Area during story hour. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

CAMP ZAMA, Japan — A five-minute, free phone call gives kindergarten-age children at Camp Zama and its housing areas an escape into the world of make-believe and an educational tool to help them develop focus and concentration.

“Dial-a-story” began about two years ago as a weekly service parents could call to allow their children to hear a story. The librarian at the time created it with a box full of books on tape and a DSN line.

“She wanted children on base to have a chance to listen to short stories,” said Harumi Kondo, a librarian at Camp Zama’s main library, “so [the] children [could] concentrate on something.”

The system receives about 15 calls a week. The library has about 122 story cassette tapes to rotate through weekly.

The stories are pegged to various seasons and holidays, such as the story “Independence Day” last week. The stories feature animated voices and musical accompaniment, created for children about 6 years old.

Familiar fairy tales and moral lessons are used. This week’s story explains why the sea is salt water.

The story ends with a reminder that more stories await children in print at their libraries.

“Come see us soon,” chirps a friendly voice.

Other bases, including Yokota Air Base, have similar programs, which will be featured on some bases during National Reading Month or other special occasions. Kadena Air Base on Okinawa expects to resume its story phone line this fall after renovations to its library.

Along with the story phone, Zama’s libraries have story-hour programs led by community volunteers. They read stories and sometimes do crafts and games, Kondo said.

Libraries also hold summer reading programs to encourage children to maintain their good reading habits all year.

The programs all strive to encourage children to learn about their libraries and “to encourage children to read,” Kondo said.

To reach Zama’s Dial-a-story, call DSN 263-5810. At Yokota, call 225-2004.


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