In today’s world, technology can bridge the distance created by separation, but there are times when a military kid just needs to see and hear mom or dad. In partnership with United Through Reading (UTR), the USO helps keep deployed parents connected to their children through story time, and it’s as easy as watching a movie.

The USO hosts United Through Reading at select locations around the globe. Free to military members and their families, the program allows service members to pick a children’s book from a large collection of childhood favorites, relax in a private, comfortable area and record themselves reading the book aloud – infusing all the character voices and personalities their children love. Once finished, the USO ships a copy of the book and the UTR recording to loved ones back home.

To complete the experience, families are encouraged to send their loved one overseas a photo of their child interacting with the UTR video and book so their service member feels that connection to home.

Air Force Staff Sergeant Colleen Rock knows the impact UTR recordings have on loved ones. During her deployment to Iraq in 2007-08, Rock sent at least five video recordings to her then-3-year-old daughter, Guinevere. When each package arrived at the Rocks’ Texas home, not only did Guinevere get to see her mom on TV, but Rock got to help develop her daughter’s love of reading from half a world away.

Nearly 90 USO centers serve as host sites for United Through Reading and in 2016, nearly 16,600 recordings were mailed to military families worldwide. UTR is available to any one serving in the military and facing separation from a special child, including children or grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins even younger siblings or a child they mentor.

“[She] might remember little from that time, but she keeps the books and knows why they are special,” Rock said. “My husband said she would watch them every night before bed, just over and over and over again.”

Complete United Through Reading location list

If you are interested in hosting the United Through Reading program at your location, contact the USO today.

Need to request the United Through Reading program? Download the USO Expeditionary Program Support Request Form here