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On the Road with UTR: How to Utilize Story Time App Features on Road Trips, Vacations, or During a PCS

June 16, 2023

Before hitting the road, be sure you have downloaded and installed the United Through Reading App (here for the App Store and here for Google Play). Once you have the app on your device, log in by creating an account on ID.me to confirm that you are a military family. Next, “add” to read and record a book– either one from UTR’s ebook library or one of your own books. Upload your story and send it home to an adult’s email. Watch the story on a web browser on your mobile device or computer. Visit utrapp.org and request the book you just read – FOR FREE!

If you haven’t given United Through Reading’s mobile storytime app a shot, summer is the perfect time to do so. In case you think its only use is during a deployment, read on to learn about four practical ways the app just might save your summer sanity!

Summer Separation

For nearly all military families, summer is almost a guaranteed time to travel. Whether you are traveling to see extended family, taking a road trip to visit nearby or far away attractions, finally getting away for a well-deserved vacation, or heading out on your next PCS adventure, chances are you are going to log some miles in your vehicle. While many of these motivations for taking excursions can be joyful, they may also have you or your children separated from your service member for a period of time, particularly if they aren’t traveling with you. Take advantage of staying connected through a shared family story.

Shared Read-Aloud Experience

Sharing a read-aloud together is actually a very easy way to sneak in some summertime learning. Children who are exposed to stories read well get a subtle boost in their literacy, their vocabulary, and their understanding of imagery. If your travels have you missing the library summer reading program or switching schools between duty stations, help your child get in some reps with extra cognitive development, memory and focus enhancement, and the opportunity to learn about new people and places in books you read together. Hearing mom or dad read with good fluency (another word for speed, accuracy, and expression), will ensure these many educational benefits!

Increased Connection

When children get out of their normal daytime and nighttime routines, it can often be a recipe for disaster. When you’re on the road sleeping (poorly) in hotels or at Grandma’s house, eating fast food for every meal, and generally just trying to survive the day, emotions can run high for kids and adults. Having a shared story experience (especially to include a parent who is geographically separated) is one way to recalibrate everyone’s emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and social competence and connectivity.

Does all of that sound too good to be true from simply reading a book together or watching a parent read on video? According to Columbia University’s Nurture Science Program, a shared story “can strengthen our autonomic emotional connections to each other by engaging our emotions and senses together; it protects babies and children against stress, promotes heart, brain, and gut function, improves sleep, and bolsters the immune system.” Additionally, the Program suggests, adults are less depressed and anxious, and both parents and children show better overall physiological regulation.

Reading Resources

If you are looking for additional resources to help you plan your next road trip, look no further than the Ready for Reading Podcast, Literacy Guides for ages 0-17, Read Aloud Tips, and printable Reading Log. If you happen to be PCSing and hauling your entire book collection with you on your move, check out our blog post with Tips for Cataloging, Storing, and Moving Your Book Collection.