April has been designated the Month of the Military Child.

Blue Star Families, a nonprofit network of military families from all ranks and services, including guard and reserve, has been empowering and building morale among military families for years. Its membership includes military spouses, children and parents as well as service members, veterans and civilians.

The Blue Star Families group sees the ability to read as one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children. In promoting literacy among military children, one of its important works has been in providing books to military children, military base libraries, Department of Defense Schools, military impacted public schools and community libraries. Its Books on Bases program has positively impacted the lives of military children through the power of reading.

This month, Blue Star Families is hosting an essay contest for military children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Mark Smith, executive director of Blue Star Families, says this is a great time to remember all the sacrifices that military children make when their parents serve, as well as the positive experiences of being in a military family. He says the essay contest focuses on quality time that children and their parents can experience from reading together.

Any child with a parent or sibling in active duty, Reserve or National Guard service can enter by answering the question, "What is your favorite book to read ALOUD as a family and why?"

Entries should be 100 word or less. Four winners will be selected at the end of the month for prizes, including a Barnes & Noble Nook, a set of 20 new books, a webcam, a certificate for a free story from Be There Bedtime Stories, and a certificate of achievement from Blue Star Families.

Each entry should be sent to contests@bluestarfam.org before 11:59 pm Eastern Time on April 28, 2012. For more information on the terms, rules and conditions of the Blue Star Families contest, visit http://bluestarfam.org/essaycontest.

The Blue Star organization deserves kudos for not only bringing military families closer together, but in promoting writing skills, something that deserves emphasizing in this world of quick texting, which has grown into a grammatical black hole for young people.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com