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Myah Ayn Cano looks on as her father reads a book to her while he was deployed. Service members can make recordings of reading books to children while they are deployed through United Through Reading. The program allows service members to stay apart of their children’s lives when they are across the world.::r::::n::::r::::n::

Photo by courtesy photo

United Through Reading helps children cope with deployments

21 Nov 2008 | Cpl. Margaret Hughes

A child sits down in front of a television, flips open a book and looks up after hearing a familiar voice.  He delightfully turns the pages with his father as he reads along and formulates a bond with him from across the world.

In January, the Combat Center’s library along with United Through Reading will provide time for service members in deploying units to film their own recording for their family members.

The Combat Center’s library and units aboard the base are recognizing the benefits of United Through Reading and joining in to help children keep in touch with their deployed family member or mentor.

“United Through Reading founded this program in 1990 to help service members deployed in the Gulf War and their children,” said Sally Ann Zoll, the chief executive of United Through Reading, in a June PR Newswire story. “Since that time, our program has benefited more than 290,000 children and parents through the participation of individual military commands and through our partnership with the USO [United Service Organizations] which extends our outreach at participating USOs worldwide.”

United Through Reading is a program available to all deployed personnel that want to read to their child, brother or sister, grandchild or a child they are mentoring. 

 “I think this will have a positive effect because Marines and sailors are constantly deploying on this base,” said Tara Drummon, a library technician for the base library.

The program allows those separated from their families, due to military obligations, to read stories while being filmed and send the recording home to a child. 

“This program really helps families stay connected during physical separation,” said Suzan Caughlan, a program manager for United Through Reading.

The program not only can help keep families in touch, but also can help improve children’s reading skills, strengthen family bonding and minimize the stress of separation.

A child who was read to before birth to the age of 3 has a vocabulary three times stronger then those children who were not read to, Caughlan said.

“They are essentially reading in the living room every night,” Caughlan said.  “The children feel closer to them, and it makes homecomings easier.”

After a long deployment, service members fear their children might not recognize them, but with this program, children recognize their father or mother instantly, Caughlan said.

The process is very rewarding and simple for service members.  After the service member has finished recording their story, they send the DVD home to the child.  The child at home watches the recording and follows along with the book, if available.  The caregiver then records the child’s reaction and sends it to the service member.  Once they receive the feedback they are encouraged to do it again.

“Many parents don’t read to their kids anymore,” Drummon said.  “If children are used to being read to every night, when the deployed parent gets home, the child might request them to read in person and start a family tradition of reading a book every night.”

For more information or opportunities to record at the Combat Center’s library contact your unit’s Family Readiness Officer.  If a unit is interested in starting a program with United Through Reading contact Suzan Caughlan at (858) 481-7323 extension 205.



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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms