United Through Reading: Our Favorite Stories

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(Courtesy of United Through Reading)

Our staff got talking about our favorite stories about United Through Reading sent by our readers on our Facebook page.

We love to hear about how a United Through Reading DVD — a video-recording of a deployed service member reading a storybook — connects the service member to the child they love at home.

Success stories like these keep our volunteers coming back. They keep our coordinators coordinating. They create the willingness among service members to stand in line to read a book to their kids -- because they have heard the program works. Here are a few of our recent favorite stories:

“Daddy! Daddy!” When their DVD came in the mail, Nikki Osborn had a hard time hearing her husband’s voice over her daughter shouting, “Daddy! Daddy!” Julie Brubaker, a Marine spouse, also told us that the United Through Reading recording was just like having her husband home.

In nearly 200 locations around the world, military service members are being video-recorded reading books to the children they love -- on ships deployed in the Pacific, installations in Afghanistan, USOs stateside and overseas, on bases in places like Korea and Japan and during recovery periods at military medical facilities here at home. These DVDs bring the servicemember right into the family room.

Fighting back the tears. Volunteer Mallory Richards said she fought back tears all day when she helped Air National Guardsmen make DVDs before they deployed in 2012.

United Through Reading works with hundreds of volunteers like Mallory each year to implement the program in the field. Active Duty Coordinators run the program in each command and Homefront Coordinators (often military spouses) work to build awareness of the program at home at pre-deployment fairs and family readiness events.

Service member on call. Like so many of our participants, Erin Sutton’s children watch their DVDs every night before bed. Parents everywhere know that children love to hear the same books over and over again, and research continues to show that repetition in reading aloud strengthens literacy skills, making children better prepared for success in school. Whether they read along with Grandma on the living room couch, or Dad on video from Djibouti, Africa during deployment, they’re building critical skills for academic success.

Bring on the amazement. Kelly Krause’s husband recorded three DVDs, one for each of his three children. During the first few minutes of the story, her youngest son kept saying, “Mommy, I love seeing Daddy reading to me!!”

Participation in the United Through Reading program helps ease children’s anxiety about a parent’s deployment. Children can see and hear their parent reading a story to them from wherever they’re serving and are reassured that their parent is safe and well and thinking of them.

Remember me. SPC Che Brown and SPC Ashley Brown were deployed simultaneously to Afghanistan, they had to leave their 1-year-old son, Isaiah, in the care of his grandmother in Missouri.

The new parents hoped they would have internet access where they were serving so they could stay in touch with Isaiah via Skype while they were away. Unfortunately, such internet access was rarely available and time zone differences made connecting in real-time difficult even when they had access.

Ashley Brown knew about the United Through Reading program because she’d made a recording three months earlier, before Che’s deployment, which she sent home for Isaiah and his dad to enjoy together.

The Browns had a rare opportunity to see one another at USO Bagram East shortly after Che’s deployment began and several months into Ashley’s where they read two stories for Isaiah, easing their fears that Isaiah wouldn’t remember them when they returned home.

At USO centers around the world, service members find a place to watch movies, music rooms filled with guitars and amps and keyboards and drums, recliners in front of flat screen TVs with Xboxes and Wiis.

United Through Reading provides recording sites stocked with blank DVDs, video cameras and loads of storybooks to choose from. Since 2005, more than 250,000 United Through Reading recordings have been made at USOs and sent home to military kids missing parents, aunts, uncles and older brothers and sisters.

Each of these stories came from postings on United Through Reading’s Facebook page. To learn more about what they do, how to become involved, to see videos of children watching their United Through Reading videos or to read more stories like these, follow them on Facebook!

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