Parent Survival Guide: Reading program keeps military families connected

Updated: Apr. 26, 2021 at 6:11 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Jennifer Fontana and 7-year-old son Henry love reading books.

So when the opportunity came up for them to have books video recorded by her husband before his deployment with the United Through Reading program she jumped at the chance to take part.

“It makes it easy because bedtime is staying the same because dad normally puts him to bed,” Fontana said. “So he can brush his teeth, and they are saved in the App. He can pick which one he wants to.”

The program was started by a Navy spouse in 1989 as a way for her young daughter to stay connected with her deployed dad. There are more than 200 service centers where military members can record video books.

Now during the pandemic the organization has an app that allows members to also video record books.

Every child is also sent a free monthly book of their choice and an e-book as well.

The free and secure service is for Active Duty, National Guard, Reservists, and Veterans. And 100 percent supported by contributions.

“Here you’re able to step away from your desk job and do something you do at home. It’s a special little thing that brings home back to you,” CEO Salley Ann Zoll said.

Fontana says Henry has listened to at least 60 recorded books since several of his dad’s deployments.

“In the last year he has had a move, COVID, and virtual school. This app has truly helped him cope with a lot of these,” Fontana said. “It has calmed him down, settled him down to not be angry or upset that his dad was not there for him, and help him with that transition.”

“It makes a spouse at home feel supported, and improve the morale of the one away from the family,” Zoll said.

Fontana says the video recorded books are not only helping her son but her as well.

“There will be times where I haven’t talked to him in a few days, so I will listen to him before I go to bed. We all listen to them,” Fontana said.

Zoll says to date United Through Reading has served more than 2 and a half million military families.

For more information on the program and how you can take part click here.

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