United Through Reading (UTR) connects military families who are separated —for deployment or military assignment—by providing the bonding experience of shared story time. Since 2009, BAE Systems has been one of UTR’s biggest supporters and helped ensure that military members, Veterans, and their families could continue to remain connected and resilient through video-recorded story time.

In 2018, BAE Systems sponsored the UTR Mobile Story Station. The Mobile Story Station bridges the reading service gap by providing more opportunities for service members to learn about UTR and to participate by being video recorded reading a storybook in a branded and customized Ford Transit in the greater San Diego area. BAE Systems is also a featured supporter for the UTR mobile reading App, which helps put a Story Station in the hand of every service member and veteran. Through the app, they can select an ebook from the UTR library, read, record and send story time today, and UTR will send the book to the child.

What inspires your organization to do what you do? / How do you support our military?

United Through Reading keeps military families reading together, no matter the distance. For 32 years, we have helped families stay connected through video-recorded story time to help ease the stress of separation, maintain positive emotional connections, and cultivate a love of reading and early childhood literacy. Service members can read, record, and send a story and a book to their families from more than 200 recording locations worldwide, as well as on mobile devices with our free and secure reading app. Since 1989, more than 2.5 million military members and their families have benefited from the program.

What is the most significant need you are seeing for military families right now?

For many, this year has been a challenge, and military families are no different. With all the challenges presented, we have been buoyed to see more and more people discover what we at UTR have known for a long time -- the value of virtual story time and making time to read together even when you cannot be together through programs like United Through Reading.

Today, nearly all families face challenges with their children’s educational development due to the impacts of COVID-19. Military families are not spared, and their challenges come with added complications, such as moves mandated by military service or long separations due to deployments, mobilizations, and now, quarantines. That is why United Through Reading published “Reading & Resiliency: Making Literacy a Military Community Priority,” a white paper outlining the importance of early childhood and family literacy for the military community. Reading aloud with adults helps create strong literacy skills in children with positive consequences for lifelong learning. Resiliency through reading is attainable, accessible, and adaptable for every child in our diverse military community. It is our duty to protect the children of those who protect the nation, and through literacy, we can.

How can people get involved with/support your organization?

  • Attend our webinar series: This spring, United Through Reading is holding a series of webinars about the importance of supporting the literacy of military families.Based on our white paper launched in March, “Reading & Resiliency: Making Literacy a Military Community Priority,” the series will bring experts together to dig deeper into the findings and discuss how to make military family literacy a community priority. You can sign up at utr.org/webinars.
  • Become a virtual volunteer: Did you know social media messages are shared 24times more when coming from real people compared to when posted by the company? This is why we are recruiting social media ambassadors to help us spread the word about United Through Reading. Find out more about becoming a Social Media Ambassador and how you can help us connect even more families.
  • Hold a virtual Book Drive: Our virtual Book Drives help us mobilize your networks to add to our library of books for military kids. United Through Reading will maximize every dollar you donate to purchase books through our partners who offer deep discounts. Contact us at giving@utr.org to learn more.