MARINE CORPS AIR BASE IWAKUNI, Japan — Bedtime stories are pretty low-tech — all it takes is a book, a reader and a listener. No batteries or assembly required.

But for kids and parents who think that’s soooo 1980, there’s Dial-A-Story at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. And the base’s young adult readers can download, listen to and play comprehension games with stories through the base’s Web site.

All are ways to bring storytelling into the modern age, said Iwakuni Library Director Belinda Pugh.

“I thought Iwakuni would be a good audience because our family members are so young. Their parents are so young!” Pugh said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “This younger generation has been born into a digital age. They have been exposed to audio, video and digital images from the moment of their birth and so are learning differently than those born before 1980.”

Dial-A-Story — a 52-week program ordered through a private company — allows Iwakuni parents and kids to call the DSN network and hear a new story each week. Although they don’t track the number of calls, busiest times seem to be between 7-8 p.m., when kids are getting ready for bed, she said.

“People tell me they use the service as an alternative for the regular bedtime or nap story,” Pugh said. “They tell me they like the different styles of storytelling and that the kids like the novelty of using the phone to listen to a story.”

The library’s TumbleBook service is for older children who get an account and password on the base’s Web site, then read or listen to stories online. Stories come with online quizzes and games to play, Pugh said.

Other base libraries in Japan offer a range of modern services, from Dial-A-Story at Camp Zama to thousands of “e-books” that can be downloaded to a computer, MP3 player or personal digital assistant at Yokota Air Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi and Yokosuka Naval Base.

And Iwakuni is now investigating what Pugh calls the “next evolution of storytelling” — making books available for download to a cell phone. A lot of the high-tech services still end up reeling people into the building, Pugh said.

Online or otherwise, the main thing is to get children to use the library, Pugh said. “It seems like a simple thing to listen to a bedtime story or come to the library for story time. But it plants a seed in a child’s brain to find out more.”

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