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. As part of the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program, the USO hosts United Through Reading® story time programming at nearly 90 USO locations around the world to help keep deployed parents connected to their children through story time.

At select USO locations around the globe, and free to military members and their families, United Through Reading® 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 United Through Reading® 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 video and book so their service member feels that connection to home.

Air Force Staff Sergeant Colleen Rock knows the impact the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program and United Through Reading® 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.

In 2016, nearly 16,600 recordings were mailed to military families worldwide. Thanks to the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program and United Through Reading® recordings are 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 learning more about the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program, or participating in United Through Reading® at your location, contact the USO today.