VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Sometimes, reading aloud is all it takes to bring families closer, even when military service members are miles from their loved ones.

United Through Reading’s mission is to help build that connection. Through the non-profit, service members can record themselves reading from a selection of children’s books for their loved ones to watch at home while they are away for extended periods.

“Sharing story time is just one of those way where we can keep that family bond strong, make an improvement to the child’s literacy and really be a contributing factor in a positive way to their continued wellbeing for the entire family,” Tim Farrell, CEO of United Through Reading, said.

The videos can be recorded and shared in many ways. Service members, whether they are parents, aunts and uncles, siblings and more, can record themselves reading on ships and stations around the world and send the video and book back home. There is also an app to keep them connected through story time. The goal is to boost morale for the service members and their families as well as encourage a love of literacy.

Jenny Lynne Stroup, a Virginia Beach resident, said her children, now 11 and 13, pull books off the shelf sometimes and remember reading that with their father while he was away years ago. They still have the recordings made when the kids were just a toddler and an infant. Creating and receiving those videos was something the whole family looked forward to over the many years they have all participated in United Through Reading’s mission.

“It not only provided us a chance to connect to us as his family, it provided him a chance to take a break,” Stroup said about her husband creating the videos while abroad.

She said her husband was able to talk to his family about things happening as well as reading, so it was yet another way for the family to connect.

Like Stroup, Farrell was among those who have made a recording through United Through Reading long before he got involved in the organization. The Air Force veteran said he remembers there were times when my kids just really wanted to see my face and hear my voice,” and United Through Reading provided that opportunity.

Back then, his recordings were sent home on a DVD. Now, the United Through Reading app helps keep families connected, even if they don’t have access to the more than 300 permanent recordings stations around the world or if the mobile reading station is not nearby.

The United Through Reading Mobile Story Station is equipped with everything a service member needs to record themselves reading aloud before deployment. There was a variety of books to choose from, good lighting, a comfy chair and a camera all set up in a van.

A United Through Reading representative said the mobile story station will be in Hampton Roads throughout April — the Month of the Military Child — visiting schools and attending various events.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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