2023 Year In Review

December 11, 2023

United Through Reading has had an outstanding year! We launched Operation Storytime, hosted events nationwide, distributed books to thousands of military families, and joined a Coalition focused on access to diverse books. Let’s take a look back at 2023.

Read our New Literacy Tips

Our blog has published two new literacy resources for you! The first is Tips for Parents to Promote Reading from Infants to Teens. This post highlights the importance of reading for children of all ages and provides parents and caregivers with practical tips to promote reading for all ages. We emphasize the benefits of shared reading experiences, including language development, cognitive growth, empathy, a love of reading, and stronger family bonds.

The second, How to Narrow the Gap and Ensure Your Child Is Reading At Grade Level, emphasizes the critical role of reading proficiency in a child’s academic success and provides actionable tips for parents and caregivers to ensure their child is reading at grade level. It’s divided into three sections addressing elementary, middle, and high school levels so you can help your child no matter how old they are.

Thank you to Reader’s Digest Foundation for supporting our literacy tips.

Operation Storytime

This year, we launched Operation Storytime to reach #TheNextMillion military family members through four Missions: Read, Reconnect, Ready, and Reach. This work is possible thanks to our 4-star partner, Reader’s Digest Foundation.

Supporting us in our Operation Storytime efforts, we announced three Mission sponsors. Mission Read is sponsored by Dollar General Literacy Foundation, Mission Reach by Gillette Antiperspirant, and Mission Ready by BAE Systems. We are grateful for these organizations’ commitment to military families and for supporting our work in providing high-quality programs to military-connected families around the world.

Expanding our Volunteer Network

This year, we made some exciting updates to our volunteer program. We hosted monthly Virtual Training Events to support our volunteers across the country (and the world). Our work wouldn’t have nearly as much impact without the help of our volunteers. They prepare books for distribution, attend events, and help families save storytime moments with our App. Stay tuned for even more opportunities in 2024! We would love to have you join us! If you’re interested in volunteering, fill out this form.

Measuring our Impact

We partnered with the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University to revamp our confidential survey. The data we gather will help us improve our program offerings and understand our programs’ long-term impact on our community. Since we know everyone’s time is valuable, we’re offering participants the chance to win an Amazon.com gift card in a monthly drawing after completing the baseline survey. If you haven’t taken the survey yet, complete it now.

Veterans Day Virtual Storytime with a Service Member Reached over 1,000 Classrooms!

For the second year, we offered teachers and homeschool families the opportunity to view a Virtual Storytime with a Service Member recording as part of their Veterans Day lessons. We sent videos to more than 1,000 educators. The 14 different titles, including our first in American Sign Language, were viewed more than 3,800 times! We’re thrilled to have made an impact on so many students around the world.

Other Notable Events From 2023

Building Kits With Dr. Jill Biden

The First Lady, Second Gentleman, and U.S. Governors’ spouses assembled 800 United Through Reading kits for distribution to National Guard families nationwide during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in February.

Tim Farrell Speaks on International Panel

CEO Tim Farrell was invited to England to be part of a panel on The Joy of Reading at the World Literacy Foundation’s 2023 World Literacy Summit at the beautiful University of Oxford. He was on stage beside two of our Literacy Council members, Denine Torr of Dollar General Literacy Foundation and Alicia Levi of Reading is Fundamental.

Celebrating April’s Month of the Military Child

As part of Operation Storytime’s Mission Read, we launched our inaugural Book for the Military Child, The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, during MOMC. We’ve given 13,000 copies of this classic and beloved children’s book to military families worldwide. Our goal with Book for the Military Child is to unite military families around one book that celebrates and honors their experiences. We hope your family was able to enjoy it as well.

Diverse Books for All

We joined the Diverse Books for All Coalition, a national consortium of nonprofits and membership organizations working to increase access to affordable children’s books by and about diverse races and cultures. One of the coalition’s goals is to double the number of affordable, quality, diverse children’s books accessible to members in five years.

Supporting Guard and Reserve Families

United Through Reading hit a major milestone of reaching all 50 states and four territories through Yellow Ribbon events for our Guard and Reserve families! With the help of volunteers and program coordinators, we provided information, books, and storytime recording opportunities.

Mobile Story Stations on the Road

Both Mobile Stations went on epic road trips. Our West Coast van made a trip through inland California, hitting five bases. The East van made multiple stops in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia. We provided recording opportunities, books, and program materials. We’re grateful to ViaSat for sponsoring the West Coast road show.

Employee Engagement

Multiple partner organizations hosted stickering and bookmark-making events as a way for their employees to get to know more about our programs and participate in corporate philanthropy while doing some team-building. Thank you to Carter’s, Navy Federal Credit Union, USAA, IICF, and many more for all of your hard work.

Celebrating Military Families

At Tribute to Military Families and Storybook Ball, we celebrated those who sacrifice for our country and are the core of what we do for military members, spouses, and children. Both events featured prominent speakers from the military and our partners. At Storybook Ball, we presented Boyogi author David Barclay Moore with the Audrey Geisel Friend of Military Children Award and Epsilon Systems, Inc. with the Military Family Leadership Award.

Because of the amazing community we’ve built, in 2023, we’ve connected over 300,000 military family members. We have provided military families with nearly 80,000 books, and service members recorded over 7,000 stories to remain connected with their children through shared storytime!