Introducing Book for the Military Child

April 4, 2023

April is designated as the Month of the Military Child (MOMC). During the entire month over 1.6 million military children are celebrated for the challenges and unique experiences they face. These children handle frequent relocations, a parent who may be away from home for weeks or months at a time, as well as social, emotional, and academic hurdles. In a word, these military-connected kids live out BRAVERY every single day.

United Through Reading is proud to announce their new Book for the Military Child for 2023 during MOMC as part of Operation Storytime, our three-year initiative to connect the next one million military family members through the read aloud experience, no matter the difference. The Book for the Military Child unites and celebrates military children across the globe through their shared experiences.

This year’s selection is Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand. In this story, Penn beautifully shares a message that it is normal and common for children to express their feelings and that they can move forward with bravery.

The Kissing Hand perfectly captures something all military kids can relate to – the need to stay connected to a loved one, even when you can’t be with them. Our goal is to bring our military community together with one shared book for every military child. As part of this program we will distribute 13,000 copies around the world through our Story Stations and partnerships in 2023.

The Kissing Hand “is a story about a young raccoon named Chester who was anxious about leaving home and going to school. So his mother decided to share a ‘family secret’ with him: the ‘kissing hand.’ She gave him a kiss on his paw and told him to press the kiss to his cheek whenever he missed her.” (StoryOnline)

Like Chester the Racoon, children of military service members may face anxious moments that their civilian counterparts do not. When a parent leaves home for a training exercise or deployment, young children may be unable to articulate their fears and worries, but know just the same that there is something in the air at home. When children relocate for frequent moves, being the new student at a new preschool or school can feel overwhelming. No matter the scenario, emotions and overwhelm may run high.

The Kissing Hand is a reminder that bravery is possible. The story offers a tangible way to recenter anxious emotions by remembering a parent’s small but meaningful gesture in order to recall the love and support of a parent during tough times. Chester’s mother kisses his paw and encourages him to press the kiss to his cheek whenever he misses her. In doing so, it is as if Chester can hear his mother say, “Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you.”

In much the same way, United Through Reading offers a “kissing hand” of its own through our Story Stations or free app. Service members read a book while being video recorded and send the video and book home to the child. The child at home watches the video and follows along with the book. When a child may be especially missing a parent who is away for military service, hearing the parent’s voice and seeing their face serves as a calming, loving reminder of the parent’s presence.

Audrey Penn began her own “kissing hand” ritual with her daughter by kissing her own hand and telling her daughter that whenever she was homesick, she could put her hand to her face. Our military children may feel a similar homesickness for a previous duty station, friends or teachers they have had to say goodbye to, and most significantly, a parent far from home.

United Through Reading hopes that through the encounter of this storybook between families, as well as other opportunities to connect over a shared reading experience that military children will be encouraged and celebrated throughout the month of April as well as throughout the entire year.