The Reese Family’s UTR Story

June 7, 2016

“United Through Reading has enabled books to play a huge role in our family connection.”


United Through Reading is pleased to announce that Alia Reese will be the new National Program Manager serving the Marine Corps. In her role, she will reach out to Marine Corps command leadership with an offer to embed UTR as a part of their family resiliency toolkit. Alia will train the command’s active duty volunteer; equip them with books, mailers, DVDs, and promotional materials; and provide support and additional books to help the commanders facilitate unit-family connections through all periods of separation.

Alia knows the power of United Through Reading as she and her family have been using the program since 2003 when her husband was preparing for his first combat deployment. Alia shares, “Our daughter was 18-months-old. My husband and I made it a priority to read to her before bedtime, and storytime was an event that she looked forward to. When we heard about the opportunity for my husband to make recordings of himself reading our favorite books, we jumped on it. Our video of ‘Daddy Stories’ enabled my husband to continue to be part of a quintessential family routine regardless of where he was.”

The whole family became advocates for United Through Reading when their daughter, Emma, stole the show by sharing their family’s story at United Through Reading’s Capitol Reception in 2011.  


Hi, my name is Emma. I LOVE to read!

My Mom and Dad read to me and my brother every night. They have been doing this since I was born. I don’t remember all of the books they have read but some of my favorites are: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Nancy Drew, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and the first 3 Harry Potter books. (My mom won’t let me read the rest yet – she says I’m too young.)

Reading with my family makes me feel happy and loved. We all sit on my bed, cuddle, and enjoy the stories together.

My Dad has been deployed a lot. He’s been away for about half of my life. But I don’t feel like he’s been gone that much. I think a reason I feel like he is part of my everyday is because I still get to read with him whenever I want to.

I have recordings of my Dad reading lots of books to me. Some of the books were good for me when I was younger. My brother really likes those now! Some of the books have stories and lessons that are good for me now.

On the days when I miss my Dad a lot, I like to read along with him. My brother does too. Sometimes we sit on my brother’s bed and read with Dad – just like when he is home.

I miss my Dad, but reading really helps me stay connected to him. I hope that lots of other kids will get the same chances I have had to read with their Dads and Moms, even when they are separated because of deployments and other work.


The Reese family’s appreciation for United Through Reading remains. Alia states, “Separation has become our normal and finding ways to stay connected is essential. Those first stories that my husband recorded and the others that followed helped us to continue to grow together. My children see Daddy every day. They hear Daddy every day. Daddy is part of our everyday in a way that is not possible with any other program or technology. Even when phone and internet connections are impossible, my children can interact with Daddy in a family routine that has not changed in over a decade.

The impact on our children is tremendous. Both children are very close to their Dad. They move through phases of deployment and integration with ease because Daddy is part of their everyday life. The recorded books are touch points that my husband is able to use as a means to begin conversations or to ask questions of our children. Sometimes the books he reads are just fun, but sometimes he reads books that deal with issues one of the children is contending with. United Through Reading has given my husband a mechanism to use books to teach and reach out to our children as he would if he were home.

Of course this isn’t lost on our kids. Both children love to read. When they get a new book from the library or as a gift it is one of the first things they share with my husband.  United Through Reading has enabled books to be a huge role in our family connection.

United Through Reading is so pleased to have Alia in the role of National Program Manager serving the Marine Corps. A Family Life and Resiliency expert, she is devoted to serving Marine Corps families which is evident from her history of volunteerism. Currently, she volunteers as a LINKS mentor with Marine Corps Family Team Building at Quantico, and she serves on the Board of Directors of the Quantico Officers’ Spouses’ Organization. In addition to being a United Through Reading Program Advocate, she was also a Program Coordinator/Adviser for the Key Volunteer Network at Camp LeJeune.  Alia has her Masters in psychology and has published the award winning American Hero Books®.