Deployments and frequent separations are a reality for military families. In fact, every year, more than 100,000 military parents deploy leaving nearly 250,000 children at home. A conservative separation is about 6-months, and that means these military children have 180 nights without their parent home for a bedtime story. That’s 40 million bedtime stories missed each year by military children.

United Through Reading’s mission is to connect military families through the read-aloud experience, and we are able to deliver many of these stories each year. In fact, in 2016 we delivered more than eight million. But there are still millions of stories left to send home. This year we are working to close the gap and ensure that every military child can reap the benefits of storytime with their far-away parent. After all, we believe that every child deserves a bedtime story.

At UTR, what we do is simple. Stories are read aloud by service members and captured on video to be sent home to military children. Through these simple stories children see their loved ones face, hear their familiar voice, and as they read along in their book something profound takes place:

Diversity & Inclusion: Equitable Access to UTR

The Full Story

Bedtime Stories From Around the Globe

Watch these bedtime stories from around the globe, delivered by United Through Reading.

Before There Was FaceTime: United Through Reading

We first discovered United Through Reading 10 years ago as I was about to leave for our first deployment with kids. We began reading to our kids before they were born and weren't going to let some little thing like thousands of miles of ocean stop that. I was deployed when Sarah was born; it was a tough time for everyone, but especially for my wife. At the end of an exhausting day, I was there to read the kids a story and to give Mommy a much-needed break. Sarah would crawl to the TV, pat the screen and use her first word, "Dada," to request FaceTime long before Apple ever thought of it. When I came home from the second deployment, having been physically present with Sarah for a total of about two of her 14 months of life, she reached out and touched my face, not a cold glass image, but a real person. There was no crying, no pulling away, no transition, just immediate acceptance - we were truly United Through Reading.

Reading a book to my children from the middle of the ocean or the middle of the desert isn't just a distraction or a way to pass the time. It reminds me why I am away: more than a job or a mission, I am there precisely because I am a Dad and want to make sure that the freedoms and security of the country I love and whose Flag I bear are there for my children. As I read a silly children's book or a fun adventure story, I am reminded of my family and of my identity: husband, father, human being. It changes how I interact with others and it makes me a better person.

— Chaplain Dennis Kelly, U.S. Navy

UTR Family Video
The Flores Family

Meet Chris and Christina Flores. They are an U.S. Army family that shared their United Through Reading experience. They started using United Through Reading when Christina was pregnant with their first born.

This Little Girl First Got to Know Her Father’s Voice Through UTR

Cadence Driscoll was born into this world without meeting her father – U.S. Army Captain Alex Driscoll was deployed to Afghanistan for his second tour during the birth of his first born. Although Capt. Driscoll was Skyped in from miles away, the distance still took a toll on him and his growing family. They found UTR bridge the distance. Capt. Driscoll surprised his wife, Cleo, and unborn baby with his first recording while en route to Afghanistan. His second video arrived after Cleo gave birth to their baby girl.

“He kind of got lost in it a little bit I think,” Cleo admitted when describing her husband in the videos, “It was a little break for him where he could feel connected to us in the midst of all the craziness going on.”

As a comfort mechanism for Cleo, and a way for Cadence to virtually meet her father – the two watched the videos every night while Capt. Driscoll was away from home. “I would put [the video] in the laptop and sit her up on my chest and play it for her. I really think that helped her be comfortable with him when he came home. She was so fascinated with looking at him when he talked to her when they finally met. No fussing or crying, she just watched him. You definitely could tell she was used to his voice.”

— The Driscoll Family, a U.S. Army Family