By Jessica Battaglia
Guinevere Rock may not remember every moment of reading them, but she knows why the books are special.
Her mom, Air Force Staff Sgt. Colleen Rock, read each of the books to her while she was deployed to Iraq in 2007-08 thanks to the USO’s partnership with United Through Reading.
When each book and accompanying DVD arrived at the Rocks’ Texas home, not only did 3-year-old Guinevere get to see her mom on DVD, but Colleen got to be involved in teaching her daughter how to read from half a world away.
“My husband said she would watch them every night before bed, just over and over and over again,” Rock said.
Rock learned about the USO-hosted United Through Reading Military Program after arriving in Iraq. She instantly recognized it was something that would help her stay connected with Guinevere.
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Through the USO’s partnership with United Through Reading, service members can record themselves reading a book aloud to their child or loved one back home. The DVD recording is then packed with the book, and the USO mails the package home where child or loved one can then watch their deployed family member read them a story.
The USO hosts United Through Reading Military Program at more than 60 centers worldwide and has already sent nearly 10,000 recordings back to military families this year.
“I sent five or six [DVDs] because you could do one once a month,” Rock said. “[Guinevere] might remember little from that time, but she keeps the books and knows why they are special.
“I would write a little message in the book. … I think doing the program probably instilled that love of reading into her. Now she’s an avid reader. She’s in fourth grade and has a fifth-grade reading level.”
The Rocks have used other USO services over her 15 years in the military, too.
“Even now, I have my family meet me over by the USO,” Rock said. “Whenever we travel, we will have a snack before our flights.
“When I worked in readiness, we had [a delivery] very early in the morning. The USO hadn’t even opened yet. They came in came in and opened for us. I slept on one of the couches and when I woke up, I had a blanket over me.”
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