Our Power in Partnership series highlights our national and regional partners and the work they do to build healthier communities.
Tell us about your organization and mission.
United Through Reading connects military and Veteran families through the power of shared storytime, even when they can’t be together in person. Founded in 1989, our free program allows the service member, regardless of military status, and Veterans, to record a story for a child in their life to watch and read together when they are apart. We have helped more than 2.7 million military mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, older siblings, and children sustain bonds and foster literacy by sharing stories across even the greatest distances.
What are the greatest needs of the individuals and families you serve?
On any given day thousands of military Service Members and Veterans are away from home – that’s millions of stories missed each year by military children. When military families use United Through Reading, they feel less anxious and stressed, making it easier for the entire family while their service member is away. Military families that read together daily with United Through Reading storytime videos stay connected and build stronger bonds, no matter the distance. Reading aloud regularly with military children through United Through Reading storytime videos encourages early literacy and language skills, builds vocabulary development and growth, and fosters a love of reading that creates lifelong readers.
Where can families find United Through Reading?
United Through Reading has over 200 Story Stations around the world. They are found within military units, community centers, libraries, and at community events, but the easiest way to use United Through Reading is to download our free Mobile App. Our App is available 24/7 wherever our families may find themselves in the world. The service member records themselves reading a book, including one of our ebooks on the App, and the recording and book are sent to the child to read along on demand. The App is available on iOS, Android, and Amazon.
How does collaborating with community-based organizations play a role in your work?
United Through Reading works with community-based organizations every day. These organizations are vital partners for us to reach every single military and Veteran family to share our love of reading together every day. Some of the ways that we collaborate include, attending events at the organization’s location, participating in meetings, partnering together to provide books to their families, and amplifying each other’s messages on social media.
What are you most hopeful for by being a part of the Unite Us network? What would you tell another organization considering joining?
United Through Reading is excited to be part of the Unite Us platform because it allows us to expand our reach to new communities across the country. The more people that we can reach, the better. Additionally, it gives us the opportunity to meet and work with new community organizations that we may have never met before. Our program is possible because of our partnerships and volunteers across the country and Unite Us helps us expand those relationships to ensure that storytime happens, no matter the distance.
Are there any unique events your organization is participating in to honor Veterans Day this year?
This year for Veterans Day, United Through Reading has extended an invitation for any educator to host their own version of our popular Story Time with a Service Member program. We will send a video recording of a Service Member reading an age appropriate story to classrooms. It is our hope that this program will provide a fun, entertaining, and educational way for students to gain a connection to the men and women serving in the military this Veterans Day.
If you’re a Veteran interested in being part of our Story Bank, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staying Connected with United Through Reading
Jaquetta Gooden, a Unite Us employee and Veteran, reflects on her experience with United Through Reading while she was serving in Iraq.
While stationed at Fort Hood in 2006, my unit deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq. I didn’t deploy with the unit immediately because I was pregnant with my first child, Leilani. I had Leilani a few months after they deployed, and a month after I gave birth to my daughter, my unit requested me to go forward to finish out the last six months of the deployment. To fulfill this request, I had to waive my postpartum leave, which I did. My mother flew from California to Texas to pick up her granddaughter and took care of her while I was deployed to Iraq. Like any mother, I was devastated to leave my only child a month after giving birth to her. However, while deployed, I was introduced to a program called United Through Reading! I was given the opportunity to record myself on video reading Leilani a book and share a personalized message with her as well. The video was then mailed to my mother who would play the video for Leilani every day until I returned so she would be familiar with my face and voice. In 2006 technology was not advanced as it is today and United Through Reading helped keep me and my daughter connected even though we were worlds apart. Leilani turns 16 in November, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
Interested in learning more about how to bring Unite Us to your community?
About Unite Us
Unite Us is the nation’s leading software company bringing sectors together to improve the health and well-being of communities. We drive the collaboration to identify, deliver, and pay for services that impact whole-person health. Through Unite Us’ national network and software, community-based organizations, government agencies, and healthcare organizations are all connected to better collaborate to meet the needs of the individuals in their communities.