Junior Storybook Ball is magical for military kids

September 23, 2022

Military kids had a magical time at the 2022 United Through Reading Junior Storybook Ball at Joint Base McGuire Dix LakeHurst (JBMDL), New Jersey.

Unlike our annual black tie gala in San Diego, the kids and their parents who attended Junior Storybook Ball came dressed as their favorite book characters. We saw Harry Potter, The Cat in the Hat, Dorothy, Moana, Pokemon, a prehistoric creature, and so many more! Families enjoyed refreshments, music and dancing, bubbles, photo booths, and raffles for special prizes. We had a few special real life character guests too, including Belle and Spiderman. 

Angel Barnes brought her four children aged 3, 6, 8, and 10 to the ball. The Army spouse said, “It was nice and well put together. It’s always a blast with Mrs. Wood! The kids enjoyed all the characters, Spiderman for sure!–  and picking out a new book!”

Each participant brought books to trade with their new friends and received a brand new age appropriate book from United Through Reading. 

The event was open to JBMDL families, New Jersey Air National Guard families, and Veterans. 

Tonya Wood, United Through Reading’s Program Director, National Guard and Reserves was the mastermind behind the Junior Storybook Ball! She came up with the idea as a unique way for military kids to celebrate books. 

Wood says, “By encouraging people to come as their favorite book character, it really got them thinking about the books they’ve read- which ones stood out and who’d they’d like to be. When I shared on social media, I reminded folks that most every movie and/or TV show had a book to go along with it. I was trying to get the adults to come dressed as well and was pleased to see a handful come in character.”

Wood went on to say she was impressed by the time and effort families put into their character wear. She said, “The professional characters who came out did an amazing job of engaging both the children and adults- not just for photos, but during the games as well. I had asked them to judge the best characters and they told me it was a tough task. While there were definitely a few characters who stood out, everyone who came in character was a favorite of mine.”

We’d like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their contributions to the 2022 Junior Storybook Ball. 


Direct DJs 

United Communities 

The Spouses of JBMDL Organization 

The VFW Auxiliary/Post # 6590 

Anna Warner 

Palmona Bentz

Terra Wild Crafted Designs

Wounded Warrior Project 

Heroes on Call 

Learn more about starting a reading routine with your child today at utr.org.