By now we're all familiar with one popular method for connecting service members with kids during deployments and long absences -- a video of the parent reading a few books for their kids. You're probably also familiar with the organization that has long helped make these videos possible, United Through Reading.
But a new paper by the organization highlights a totally different plus for families who make and view these type of parent-to-child videos: literacy.
It makes sense if you stop and think about it: reading out loud to kids helps them like reading more and become better readers themselves. But the primary point of these United Through Reading videos or the ones we make for ourselves at home has always been comfort and connection. Now, thanks to the paper, we have something additional to add to our reasons to make these videos happen.
"When we were founded almost 28 years ago, the vision was that all children would feel the loving, caring, emotionally bonding experience of reading with a parent," said Sally Ann Zoll, who leads United Through Reading. "In fact, we have a very high percentage of our survey returns say that, 'yes, our children are more interested in reading than they ever were before.'"
The paper, which you can read here, wraps up current research on reading and literacy rates to make a case for why United Through Reading's mission supports education and not just emotional help for military kids. And it contained some statistics about reading in America that truly surprised me. About 14 percent of the U.S. adult population can't read, according to the Department of Education. About 21 percent of the U.S. reads below a fifth grade level. And, according to a 2000 report, about 34 percent of kids enter kindergarten without the ability to recognize letters of the alphabet, putting them behind their peers from the moment they set foot in the classroom.
But something as simple and comforting as having your child watch a video recording of a parent reading can help put her ahead, according to the research compiled in the United Through Reading paper.
Zoll said she hopes military families let the research inspire them to continue to read out loud to their kids -- and continue to use the organization's tools for making that possible during long separations.
"If I, as a military spouse, find out that this is something else that is going to help my child educationally ... if that's going to happen all because my spouse away is reading books and sending them home, I'm going to do that," she said. "I hope that's how we impact that military spouse at home."