While more and more everyday activities seem to be going virtual and reliance on screens is at an all-time high, the National Aquarium and Enoch Pratt Free Library are finding a way to deliver books and create offline learning experiences for Baltimore youth. Yesterday, the National Aquarium, in partnership with the Enoch Pratt Free Library, celebrated the return of Read to Reef, an award-winning program that connects Baltimore students’ love of reading with the aquatic world.

Baltimore-area children in fifth grade and younger can request a bookmark and books by calling one of Enoch Pratt Free Library’s select sidewalk service locations (pro-tip: library card number and address will be needed). Participants may request bookmarks until October 31, but supplies are limited. After reading any five aquatic or conservation-themed books, students can enter the code on the bookmark through the Aquarium’s online ticketing portal to make a reservation and receive free admission (up to four guests) through January 18, 2021.

“COVID-19 may have challenged families to get creative with how their children stay engaged with learning, and the Read to Reef program is another great learning tool! Together, families explore underwater worlds at home through books hand-picked by Aquarium educators, then later at the Aquarium’s exhibits, they see these environments in real life, reinforcing the content they read about as a family,” said Jenny Hamilton, director of community partnership strategy, National Aquarium. “The pandemic has also challenged us to get creative, but it hasn’t stopped us. In addition, this year’s season will be extended through the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend, which will give children nearly three weeks longer than previous years to redeem their tickets and visit the Aquarium.”

Since the program’s inception in 2016, 12,000 Baltimore-area students have read more than 60,000 books. Each of these students earned a trip to explore the Aquarium free of charge with their families.