What is United Through Reading?

United Through Reading (UTR), the nation’s first nonprofit to promote the read-aloud experience, provides a meaningful opportunity for service members to stay connected to the children in their lives via video recordings of them reading aloud. These powerful emotional connections relieve the stress of separation, increase the service member and family’s morale, and also help increase literacy and a love of reading. We currently serve all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces including the Coast Guard.

Who can participate in United Through Reading?

This program is for ALL Service Members (Active Duty, Reservists, and National Guard) to read to ANY child in their lives who they might be separated from, for any reason, due to military service. Parents can read to their children; older siblings to younger brothers or sisters; and uncles and aunts to nieces or nephews. Service members can even read to children they are mentoring or to classrooms at schools.

Why is it important that I read with children?

Reading aloud with children strengthens the bond between adult and child and provides a bridge for communication and sharing while promoting the joy of reading. Reading aloud has also been shown to be the single best predictor of a child’s future academic success.

How does the United Through Reading program work?

A circle of communication is established.

  1. The service member reads a book while being video recorded and sends the video and book home to the child.
  2. The child at home watches the video and follows along with the book, if available.
  3. While the child watches the video, the caregiver captures the child’s reaction in an e-mail, photo, or video and sends it back to the service member.
  4. The service member receives the feedback and is encouraged to read again.

Do I have to be a parent to participate?

No, This program is utilized by all military personnel who want to read aloud to the children who are special to them – younger brothers or sisters, nieces or nephews, grandchildren, or even children they are mentoring or volunteering with – while on deployment or during any other separation. A great benefit of the program is the bond it creates between the children and the person who is away for long periods of time as well as the continuity of connection.

I have teenagers. Are they too old for me to use the program?

We encourage service members to read to children 0 – 18 years old. Children of all ages benefit from the read-aloud experience. Click here to read more.

Is there a cost for mailing the UTR video?

Verify with your site point of contact.

Can I make a United Through Reading recording before I deploy?

We encourage sites to offer UTR recording times throughout the course of normal operations because we know that service members are apart from the children in their lives for many different reasons. If your unit does not have its own site or you will be deploying as an individual augmentee, you can participate at one of our many permanent recording sites such as base libraries, your unit, and our partner organizations. See where we are here.

Is United Through Reading still needed if our troop aren’t deploying as much?

Our military families continue to find themselves enduring separations today, whether our country is in peacetime or at war. Training assignments, humanitarian missions, a Permanent Change Station that requires a brief time of separation – being apart is difficult, no matter the reason. As long as our military families are apart, United Through Reading will be here to bring storytime home.

Is United Through Reading relevant today, even though we now have FaceTime, Skype, Google Chat, and YouTube to share videos back and forth with our service members?

We hope military families will Skype stories, post videos to YouTube, and use FaceTime to see each other as much and as often as possible. However, United Through Reading still stands out by providing something other technologies can’t replace. Here’s why:

Often when a service member is available for live video chat, children are asleep, at school, cranky, at the park, at a play date or a thousand other things. And, when they do connect, a poor internet connection leaves both adult and child feeling disappointed, disconnected, and far away. With United Through Reading, a service member can walk into a quiet recording area, sit down in a comfy chair, and enjoy a few minutes as Mommy or Daddy again while they read a story to the children they love.

If you can find a parent who has read Goodnight Moon to their child, we can show you a parent who has read Goodnight Moon to their child a thousand times. We know that United Through Reading families whose children receive a video watch them every single night before bed, before every nap time, and in some cases when they are on the go in the car.

We call it “Mommy-or Daddy-On-Demand.” When a child falls and busts their chin and is in need of stitches, is disappointed about something that happened at school, or has a day when they are really missing Mom or Dad, United Through Reading videos are there to bring them home for a little while. The child has control over when they can see Mommy or Daddy and that provides stability and comfort on the hard days.