September 30, 2014

The Right Book: The Pearson Foundation, We Give Books and Penguin Group

In April 2010, Penguin Group and the Pearson Foundation announced the launch of We Give Books.

 United Through Reading benefitted as Pearson Foundation mailed 10,000 new books from Penguin Group’s classic children’s literature to over 150 program site coordinators around the world. Not only were the books new and classic, they were specifically selected according to the upcoming season. Seasonal Book Packs were sent in advance of the holiday, birthday, or important occasions that might be missed like the first day of school so that the parent could be recorded reading the book aloud with enough time to mail the DVD home. That way, the deployed parent could be “there on DVD” for the celebration or occasion. With 10 copies of each category in a pack of 30 books, participants were often able to send the book home in addition to the DVD. One of the favorite titles was Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day which was also the selected title for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, presented in partnership with Pearson on October 7th.

In addition to the direct benefit to United Through Reading, Pearson’s collaboration with Penguin gives parents, caregivers, and educators access to Penguin Group’s growing digital collection of classic children’s literature. For every book read online, the Pearson Foundation donates a book to an exceptional literacy organizations. Pearson Foundation’s President Mark Nieker recognized the power of United Through Reading in connecting deployed parents with their children from the moment he saw the Military Program hosted at USO Dallas Fort Worth. “I was immediately a believer when I saw the love and energy in the eyes of the service members as they selected the book they wanted to read aloud” he remarked. “United Through Reading is a best in class organization serving military families. We are grateful to support them with We Give Books.”

If you have tried the We Give Books digital read and donate, let us know in the comments so we can share that with them.

Maryland Celebration of Reading

Four of our staff recently attended the Maryland Celebration of Reading for the Barbara Bush Foundation. Marcia, our Social Media Manager, writes from her perspective.

I remember the pearls that Mrs. Barbara Bush used to wear when her husband was in office. She spurred quite a trend when she was our Nation’s First Lady. I always thought she seemed like such a lovely person. Her senses of humor and caring were always apparent to me. I had the great pleasure of seeing her in person Tuesday night (from a distance of a few hundred feet) and although the whole evening was terrific, that was the high point for me. There was a palpable excitement in the room as she walked across the stage to greet the attendees. Guest author David Feherty quoted a friend of his saying, “people with no sense of humor have no sense of proportion.” I am quite sure that Mrs. Bush has an excellent sense of both….and great pearls!

Mrs. Barbara Bush and our CEO, Dr. Sally Ann Zoll

United Through Reading attended the Maryland Celebration of Reading for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Literacy. It was the eighth such benefit and over the years they have raised $3.5 million for Maryland literacy programs. On this evening, Doro Bush Koch and Tricia Koch  invited all to join them in their family’s life-long passion, to applaud the gift of literacy and the transformational effect that reading together has on families.
While our programs target audiences from different angles, we share a love of reading with the Barbara Bush Foundation. Our largest common denominator is the love of our nation’s military. This feeling was obvious at the benefit by the attendance of many in uniform and the respect with which they were treated.

Distinguished authors were asked to read from their recent works in the acoustically perfect Strathmore Hall… the one who stood out for me was Donavan Campbell. Respect for the military was emphasized by Campbell when speaking about the impetus for writing his book, Joker One. He said that while he was overseas with his Marine battalion he regretted not writing up more awards for his men. He described those Marines as people who did their job because they loved their country and who wanted to protect the Marine next to them at all times, at all costs. He knew that they weren’t going to get a pay raise or even a promotion based on valor and he regrets not taking more time to write their individual acts of courage and bravery in award form. He hopes that this book will tell their story and give them the credit they deserve. He wrote that his men taught him that “love is expressed in the only currency that matters in combat: Action.”

One of his comments that really hit me was about the loss of life and limb while being stationed in the most violent area of the war theater at that time. He said, “ ..Those men have not LOST any limbs. They have given them away, for YOU.” There were Wounded Warriors at the event that night and after Donovan finished speaking there was a standing ovation in recognition and appreciation for what they have done. There was not a dry eye in the place, including those of Donovan Campbell. He spoke with such passion for what he has seen that it was impossible not to be moved. Almost a week has passed and I cannot get that phrase out of my mind, “they gave them away for you.”

As a Navy wife of 20 years, I know that my husband has been in some pretty tense situations. I also know that while he was in them, that he was truly in those moments, committed to the duty at hand and representing all of us while he was there. I thought about that a lot over the past few days with a grateful heart for the sacrifices made by so many and also for their families at home waiting. With only about 1% of our population serving in the military it is sometimes difficult to explain that kind of patriotism to neighbors or others in the community. Donovan touched on this when he said, “You can’t explain red to someone who is color blind.” But in that auditorium last week, there was no doubt of the level of appreciation for our men and women in uniform.

Donovan spoke of how the young Marines, mainly 18-21 years of age, could bear the pressure of their situation. He said they care about something greater than themselves and that the most important thing they have is their character. Not things they owned or what they do, but what type of person they are. Isn’t that true for all of us? Don’t we all respond more strongly in the tough times if we have faith in something bigger? If we know that the experience will teach us something we can use in the future?

Donovan said he is often asked, “What is the best way to thank a veteran?” His response is that “these service members are there because they believe the United States of America is worth dying for. We need to do our part at home to make sure that America not only stays great, but gets better. We must be the best we can be, raise our children to love and to serve and teach them to read!”

There were many wonderful author-speakers at this event, yet Donovan Campbell spoke to my heart. He described people I know, people I have lived next door to, people with whom we have had the honor and privilege of serving. Donovan said, “Semper Fi”, and so do I!

Get to Know Us

As part of getting to know us I wanted to introduce you to our Program Managers. United Through Reading’s Military Program has expanded to meet the needs of our newest military addition, the U.S. Coast Guard. Tina is the Program Manager for this growing part of our family.

News Chief: Tina it is a pleasure to introduce you to our readers. Tell us a bit about your experience with the military.

Tina: I have been a Navy spouse for about 18 years and have lived all over, including Japan. I have been an ombudsman as well so I have hands-on knowledge of deployments.

NC: In fact Tina, isn’t Japan where you learned about United Through Reading?

Tina: Yes, actually we were stationed in Sasebo, Japan at the time. I was the USO Program Coordinator and Point of Contact for United Through Reading. When we moved to San Diego I became the Home Front Coordinator for United Through Reading on the USS Harpers Ferry.

NC: What is the most important part of your role now, as Program Manager?

Tina: Spreading the word, opportunity and tools to families so they have what they need to stay connected.

NC: Is there a highlight you could share with us from your job so far?

Tina: I was able to meet with the Transition and Relocation Manager for the USS Coast Guard’s Work Life Office. (This is like what the Navy knows as Fleet and Family) She has so many resources for reaching out to more Coast Guard families, more than I could ever do on my own. I’m really looking forward to speaking at their upcoming Ombudsman assembly.

NC: What one thing would you like to communicate to them?

Tina: That our program is about keeping family connections, keeping relationships alive. It reminds the child that even though a parent is gone they are still in their heart and will be coming home.

* If you are a Coast Guard family and would like more information on United Through Reading please send an email to us: Military@unitedthroughreading.org and Tina will contact you with all the necessary details.

The Right Book: with Trevor Romain

 Contrary to urban legend, dogs do not eat homework.  In his book How to Do Homework without Throwing Up Trevor Romain of the Trevor Romain Company and Trevor Romain Foundation humorously addresses many important homework truths.  Trevor donated 200 copies of this book to United Through Reading onsite libraries so that deployed parents can read his book aloud on DVD and parent from afar.  “How cool is it for the parent at home to get some help from the parent on deployment on issues like homework, bullying, and cliques using United Through Reading.  My books have familiar scenarios and real solutions so by reading the book on DVD, the parent can offer important perspective while keeping it real with humor”.

Letters From Home, Kristina McMorris

 Great news!

 Kristina McMorris, author of Letters from Home, is a huge fan of United Through Reading.  You may know that her debut novel is is a WWII love story inspired by her grandparents’ courtship letters. She has promoted our organization while on her book tour and now has offered to provide a great activity. We invite you to share your family history with us by posting the answer to this question: What would you tell your children about a family hero who served in WWII ?

Please post your hero story in the comments section here on READ! our blog. The best story winner will receive this tremendous Memory Box provided by Ms. McMorris.

Memory Box prize for best Hero Story

It is an $80 value and includes nostalgic items circa WWII -Big Band CD, Victory Garden Seeds, candies, Starbucks gift card, notepad, antique looking stationery- and of course an autographed copy of her book.

The Winner will be announced on Memorial Day. Sharpen your computer ‘pencil’ and good luck!

Volunteer Appreciation: Meet Tricia!

In our ongoing series of Volunteer Recognition, I thought it would be insightful to ask Tricia, our Military Program National Volunteer Program Manager, a few questions before she shares her thanks to all her great volunteers. It is important to note that all of our programs, including the Transitions Program and Grandparents Program, are supported by volunteers.

News Chief:  Tricia, what drew you to United Through Reading?

Tricia:  I knew a previous employee and liked hearing about the different facets of the position, particularly the military aspect, given my four years of service in the United States Air Force.

NC:  What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Tricia:  Hearing the impact of our program and the benefit to military families. It is wonderful! Working with our volunteers, attending events and meeting beneficiaries there, all work together to make my job so rewarding.

NC:  Tell us a bit about your own family’s use of United Through Reading’s Military Program.

Tricia: My own family has utilized United Through Reading. My niece is in the U.S. Army. She made many DVDs for her daughter when she was stationed in Iraq for nine months. Her daughter was only four years old when she was deployed. My nieces daughter’s face used to light up as soon as she would put in a United Through Reading DVD sent by her Mommy.  Their reunion was seamless, not uncomfortable in anyway.  I have four other family members in four branches of the service as well, so the possibility of future use of the program is pretty certain.

NC: Could you estimate how many Volunteers you have trained in your time with United Through Reading?

Tricia: Over the past 4 ½ years, I have worked with 103 Military Program volunteers. I am currently working with 23 active volunteers of which are all in CONUS and Hawaii locations, although I have had volunteers in Japan!

NC:  Tricia, you have many aspects of your job you obviously enjoy, but what is the most fun?

Tricia: Meeting amazing military men and women who already have such full and busy lives yet they volunteer from their passion for the program and their desire to spread the word to other families.

NC:  If you had one thing you could say to all your Military Program volunteers right now, what would that be?

Tricia: Our Military Program volunteers deserve gratitude and applause for the selfless gift they give. Their time, energy, skills and talents are generously lent — again and again — are priceless!  Their efforts and dedication help make our organization better, our military communities stronger, and our world brighter. Thank you!

The Sight of Patriots

Wimberly, our National (Military) Program Manager for the east coast had an “Ah-ha” moment this week:

The Sound Of Freedom. The Sight Of Patriots Everywhere!

The runner stopped jogging. The light was green, but no cars moved. I looked in my rear view mirror, and cars were stopped in the streets. A sailor on the sidewalk faced the American flag and stood, saluting his country. It was 8:00 a.m., and The Star Spangled Banner rang out across the Navy base I was on this morning. For that moment, it didn’t matter where we were going or what we were doing. Honoring our country came first.

I am not often on the base that early, but I know this moment occurs every day on military bases around the world. I opened all my car windows and turned off my radio. I wanted to take in all that is patriotic. I observed these service members, so accustomed to honoring this country. They do it every day. I sat in my car, listening to the trumpet sound out the melody to that familiar song, and took this moment to think… Really think. Why do I seldom, on occasion, OK,  hardly ever pause to honor my country? My flag is out in my pool house, packed away until something “American” needs to be acknowledged. There was no denying it. I had become too busy to be a full time patriot.

Our flag was waving on a very sunny, cool, crispy morning. I don’t pause often enough to notice that. Do you? I can fill up a day better than anyone. Run circles around myself. Wear many hats. It felt good, really GOOD, to stop, honor my country, and feel American this morning!

May it warm your heart to know that, on one of our Navy bases, I witnessed our service members doing what is right. And they do it every single day.

God Bless our military!

Coloring Contest Winners Are……………

We are proud to announce the winners of our recent coloring contest. After Dave Coverly graciously donated a great cartoon for us, entries were sent via email and snail mail to our offices. The children who participated all have something in common…they are talented! We are excited to share the winning pictures with you here as well as a number of Honorable Mentions. And the winners are……DRUM ROLL!!! For 3rd Place, Hannah, age 9, from MN. In 2nd Place, Darius, age 9, from VA. and in 1st Place, Grace, age 11, from CA.  Many thanks to all of you for your support and  participation and especially to Dave Coverly.

1st Place Winner: Grace, age 11

2nd Place Winner: Darius, age 9

3rd Place Winner: Hannah, age 9

Honorable Mention: Bolton, age 6

Honorable Mention: Diannah, age 2

Honorable Mention: Reign, age 6

Honorable Mention: Amanda, age 9

Honorable Mention: Brittanie, age 15

Honorable Mention: Phoenix, age 7

 

The Right Book: The Three Questions

Of course  all books tell a story. The books in Kara’s series The Right Book have a story!

 The Three Questions by Jon Muth was the basis of an uber collaboration among Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), Reach Out and Read, and United Through Reading at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Dr. Mary Keller of MCEC explains “Tell Me A Story is an initiative that empowers military children by using literature and their own stories in a way that fosters skills for resilience, strong peer and parent connections, and a caring community”.

These events occur in military communities across the United States. Laura Hunt, Regional Volunteer Coordinator for United Through Reading at Fort Bragg, was a part of the TMAS community committee at Fort Bragg that organized and executed a TMAS event embracing The Three Questions. Reach Out and Read generously donated a copy of the book to each child in attendance.  The book is a re-telling of a Tolstoy short story in which a young boy learns how to find answers to his questions. It shows how we all have the tools (resilience) to find what we are looking for.

The Right Book(s) with Zero to Three

Fifth in Kara’s series The Right Book we are featuring Zero to Three.

Zero To Three’s Military Family Projects includes a project that is aptly named Coming Together Around Military Families®. Dorinda Williams has written two books that resound with our youngest beneficiaries, Over There and Coming Home. With a Mommy version and a Daddy version, Over There normalizes the deployment experience for children. “It’s important for children to know that Mommy has a place to brush her teeth on deployment just as the child has a place at home; it’s also important to know that mommy continues to think and care about her child.

All of these messages can be very reassuring” remarks author Dorinda Williams, also the spouse of a retired Marine. Her second book, Coming Home, builds excitement and anticipation around reunification. “I repeat the phrase ‘hurry, hurry, it’s a special day because young children love rhythm, repetition and knowing what comes next! It can help make the reading experience even more rich and playful.” Home Again also captures the range of feelings that young children and their parents may have as they learn to reconnect as a family”. Volunteer coordinators can order these books from Military One Source for their on-site libraries. Spouses or caregivers at home can order a copy from Military One Source as well. In addition, the deployed parent and child can collaborate on a personalized version of Over There using the PDF copy on Zero To Three’s website.

Volunteer Appreciation goes beyond the month of April

Although April is considered National Volunteer Appreciation month, United Through Reading is proud to present a series in continuing appreciation of our wonderful volunteers. Many will be highlighted here in READ! our blog as we bring our mission to you. They in turn will share what volunteering has meant to them and how they are inspired to give of their time and talents. We started this series in April with Tricia, our Military Program National Volunteer Program Manager. In this feature, Laura Hunt shares her experience with us. It is also fitting that this week, May 2-6, 2011, is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Laura is not only a volunteer for us but has ten years of teaching experience in the classroom! ~ Marcia, Social Media Manager, United Through Reading

“My name is Laura Hunt. I am a United Through Reading® Military Program Regional Volunteer Coordinator (RVC). I had been teaching elementary school for 10 years when I decided to take a break from the classroom. I heard about United Through Reading from my sister, who was at that time a volunteer for the program. Volunteering to be the RVC for my area was a great way to utilize my teaching skills, stay in touch with local military families, and best of all share the importance and joy of reading.

Regional Volunteer Coordinator of the Fayetteville, NC area, Laura Hunt

I live in Fayetteville, NC and my husband works on Fort Bragg. Every day we are reminded of the dedication, non-stop training, hard work, and the sacrifices that our military families make for our country. These soldiers are my friends, neighbors, and a huge part of this community. I am so happy to be able to share this wonderful program with them that helps them to stay connected during deployments. One of my favorite pre-deployment briefs I conducted was the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, known as ‘Devil Strike’. Nothing could have prepared me for the 300 enthusiastic paratroopers who cheered and yelled “WhooAh” throughout my presentation! I wasn’t sure if I should be exhilarated or terrified. I was honored at how much they appreciated the program that I was sharing with them.

I have had a rewarding and eventful year as Regional Volunteer Coordinator for Fort Bragg. Some of the most productive opportunities I have been involved with have been: I am on the local Military Child Task Force for Fayetteville, N.C.; I attended the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Fatherhood Forum in March where I met the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki; and I was on the round table discussion group with Joe Riojas the Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security, and Preparedness. In addition, I represented United Through Reading at the Month of the Military Child Resource Fair, spoke at The Division West Conference in Texas on Ft. Hood, presented and facilitated a discussion group at the local ‘Tell Me A Story Event’ with Parent to Parent, manned the resource table for ‘Birdies for the Brave’ Golf Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., and researched and categorized over 600 book titles for the United Through Reading book list on our web site.

Being a volunteer for the United Through Reading Military Program has been a way for me to give back to my community while sharing my skills as a teacher. Reaching out to children through reading aloud touches a family’s heart. I have enjoyed every minute and look forward to all of the terrific people I will meet in 2011.”

Transitions Program Makes a Difference

Leilani, our Transitions Program Manager, speaks about the importance the program plays in her life and the importance of our volunteers.

I’ve been asked many times why I choose to recruit, train and mentor volunteers to go into detention facilities so parents can read to their kids. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I try to give the ‘elevator version’ but it always ends up something like this: “First I’m a mom and then a wife to a wonderful man who also believes that what I do is important for the future of our children.  I work for United Through Reading Transitions Program and I recruit and train volunteers to hold workshops inside detention facilities for parents and family members. They can stay connected with their family by allowing the inmate to read/record a book onto DVD and send it home. This allows the children to know their parents didn’t abandon them and that they are still loved, regardless of their separation.”  Then the “ aww’s” come out, and if there is time, the questions and the opinions about the incarcerated extends the conversation to a half hour sometimes!  That’s when I have to stop and tell the person to check out our website and they can learn more about what we do.

It’s amazing the response I get from people at the counter and folks waiting in line, when I talk about United Through Reading. It’s not about the parent reading a book but rather how it is so important for the children to know where their parents, grandparents, and siblings are if they are no longer at home. Children need to know their loved one is okay. Once they know that, a major roadblock has been cleared and the children can handle it better.

When I am given an opportunity to speak about the Transitions Program and the importance of what we do in community, I ask the adult audience to put themselves in the child’s position. What would you do if you found out your mother or father is  incarcerated, in a rehab program or other Social Services program? As an adult, you have resources to ask for help. If you’re worried, you can call in sick to work, or take a leave of absence until you find out what happened.

Many dedicated volunteers who make the Transitions Program a success!

Children don’t have that luxury or ability to ask for help. Some cannot verbalize their feelings so they get angry and lash out physically. Children cannot take a break from school, so they continue to go to class, they get angry, may act out, they are labeled and categorized by teachers and they fall behind.

If we can allow these vulnerable children the opportunity to just know where their parent is, half the battle of what they are experiencing is over. Now they can grieve, heal and move on. They can even feel connected when seeing them on DVD and share moments together.

I love what I do because I know I’m making a difference. I’m helping a family stay together during a difficult time in their life.

If the stigma of an incarcerated family member keeps them from seeking help in dealing with the problem, I know that what we do at United Through Reading gives the family a chance. This is something I share with all our volunteers and they all know they too, are making a difference.

An Afternoon with Authors

Victoria, our Development Associate and Events Planner shares United Through Reading’s most recent successful event.

Part of our hope at United Through Reading is that the shared read-aloud experience will help children develop a love of reading that will create life-long readers. As reading role models, we teach our children to love books by the very act of reading – reading to them, reading with them, and reading on our own, to satisfy our desire to get lost in a good book. It comes as no surprise then, that friends and supporters of United Through Reading are in fact avid readers themselves.  And do you know who, besides us, loves readers?  Writers!  Lucky for us, we have a few writer friends right here in San Diego, where our HQ is located.

Laurel Corona, author of 22 books including her most recent novels Penelope’s Daughter and The Four Seasons, has been an especially gracious friend to United Through Reading. Laurel donated an author’s discussion dinner with her to our Storybook Ball auction in 2009 and 2010. These dinners have been such a hit, that she and past Storybook Ball Chair, Carol Raiter, thought it would be fun to expand on the idea by putting together an author’s luncheon featuring several San Diego authors to benefit United Through Reading.

Author Laurel Corona

And fun it was! Carol went to work on organizing a luncheon at the Coronado Marriott Island Resort, complete with San Diego Bay views and delightful food, while Laurel reached out to colleagues through her local writing group, San Diego Writing Women. The sold out luncheon brought together United Through Reading friends, old and new, and nine fantastic authors to discuss the writing experience.

Topics ranged from drawing on professional passions and life experience for inspiration, to creating a story for history’s otherwise silent women, to paying homage to family history through literature. Accounts of perseverance in spite of rejection by publishers and recognition by national award honors regaled the pendulum of an author’s experience, and gave guests an insight into the life of a working writer.

Author Caitlin Rother

Guests and authors engaged more personally both before and after the luncheon as authors manned tables stocked with their works, and chatted with guests.

Author Laura McNeal

One guest, who attends at least two dozen such events each year, told us that this was the best one she had been to in 10 years. High praise for the event and its organizers, higher praise still for the participating authors, and, lest we disclose our proud bias, highest praise of all for the love of reading!

Thanks to all who participated. If you know a local author who would be interested in what we do, please contact us – we’d love to hear from you. In fact, you can comment right here in the blog, or send your ideas to READourblog@unitedthroughreading.org.

For more information on authors Laurel Corona, Caitlin Rother, Kathi Diamant, Sharon Vanderlip, Jennifer Coburn, Georgeanne Irvine, and Judith Liu, please visit San Diego Writing Women online. Find out more about these guest authors here:  Carolyn Marsden  and  Laura McNeal.

Featured on AOL’s Daily Impact

Marcia shares an exciting week in Social Media…

What a week already, and it’s just Tuesday! It is truly a remarkable thing when a nonprofit can get the word out and boy did we ever. Thanks to AOL and their wonderful new Cause Module, Daily Impact, we were the  featured charity for 24 consecutive hours on the AOL homepage!

AOL has reserved a portion of their homepage allowing brands to highlight philanthropic causes they support.  Brands buying a home page campaign have the opportunity to make use of the unit – called Daily Impact – but are not required to do so, to feature a charity of their choice. AOL will fill the unit with causes from the Ad Council or Network For Good if no advertiser causes are filling it. And they did, with us! All day Sunday, April 17, 2011.

The metrics are still being reviewed but AOL has reported to us that during the 24-hours that United Through Reading was featured on Sunday, they had 25,796,101 impressions on their site and 4,434 AOL users clicked through to our landing page. That’s amazing.  We can’t say loudly enough, THANK YOU ~ AOL. We appreciate your support!

The Right Book at First Book

Fourth in Kara’s series on The Right Book she introduces our friends at First Book.

 First Book provides new books to children in need “addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books”.  How does First Book give children in need access to new books?  …through the First Book Marketplace.   In this special place, eligible schools, after school programs, early childhood centers, health clinics, foodbanks and other organizations serving kids in need can purchase books at 50-90% off the market price.  The opportunity is truly a gift. With the help of their partners, donors and dedicated volunteers they have provided more than 80 million new books to schools and programs serving children in need.

Our Transitions Program began purchasing books through the First Book Marketplace in 2010.  (Many know that the Transitions Program reaches children whose families are separated by incarceration, drug treatment or other social services.) The same year, First Book expanded their definition of children in need to include military children.  Mitali Chakraborty, Senior Director of National Engagement, explains “while military children navigate new schools with every military transfer and lengthy separations during deployments, they need new books to be a part of what is constant in their lives.  We are thrilled to offer the military units and USO locations the opportunity to order books from our Marketplace”. 

Together, United Through Reading and First Book staff search through a multitude of available titles to identify the best read aloud titles in the Marketplace inventory for United Through Reading programs.  First Book also forges wonderful relationships with a wide range of authors to benefit their constituents.  As an example, author Eric Carle, published a bilingual version of The +Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish and English ~ a huge benefit to the populations First Book serves.  For us, First Book invited authors Brenda Ehrmantrault and Eileen Spinelli to make their books about connecting during separation available to United Through Reading.  More on their work in an upcoming  Read! our blog.

70 Years, 70 Locations, 70K

Sally Ann Zoll, ED.D and C.E.O. of United Through Reading attended the recent World Leadership Conference of  USO in D. C. She shares an update of the event and insight to our partnership with them.

Did you know that the USO has been helping American troops and their families for over 70 years? And did you know they provided 2.4 million free telephone calls (that’s 20 million minutes) to our deployed troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait?

And a really important “did you know”… Did you know that that the USO hosts our United Through Reading Military Program at more than 70 locations around the world? In 2010, troops made more than 70,000 United Through Reading recordings at USO host sites! And did you know that in the 2010 TARP (customer service research firm) Survey of over 7,000 active duty, family members, and volunteers, United Through Reading’s Military Program was rated the most valuable service at USO locations by 89% of service members and their families who participated in our program? Did you know that service members who participated in United Through Reading’s Military Program at USO locations were satisfied 81% of the time with their experience which is the most highly rated program or service among USO offerings?

Because we work so closely with the USO, I knew the amazing things that they do. But I learned so much more at the USO Leadership Conference held in Washington DC at the end of March. My colleagues, Kara Dallman and Cathy Jackman joined me at the conference where we renewed old acquaintances from around the world and made new friends. These are men and women who are putting their personal lives on hold to go and support our Troops by working at a USO in Iraq, or Sasebo, Japan, or FOB Shindand in Iraq. They are lifting the spirits of Troops and their families in a myriad of ways, including making it possible for deployed moms and dads to read a children’s book while being recorded onto a DVD.

So while United Through Reading works with hundreds of commands worldwide; while we support Navy ships, Coast Guard deployments,  Marines, Soldiers, and National Guardsmen; while we provide pre-deployment recording operations for submariners and Special Forces; while we do ALL of that – the USO helps us reach even more Troops through their 70 centers hosting the United Through Reading’s Military Program.

So on behalf of all of us at United Through Reading, a big shout out to our USO friends and all of our partners for doing their share to help us bring mommy or daddy home for the night with a cherished storybook!

Month of the Military Child Resource Fairs

Tricia, our Military Program National Volunteer Program Manager

How do we get our word out? Who can we tell about United Through Reading? Tricia, our Military Program Volunteer Program Manager, tells about her experience at a recent resource fair.

April is the Month of the Military Child, celebrating our nation’s most precious resource. Defense Officials say the month is meant to recognize the efforts and contributions of military children. Military installations worldwide will be hosting /sponsoring special events for children all month. As the Military Program National Volunteer Program Manager, I have the frequent pleasure of attending many San Diego military installation resource fairs in order to raise awareness about the Military Program and its benefits to military families. I especially take pride in attending the Month of the Military Child resource fairs. On various military installations throughout San Diego County, great effort is extended by the coordinators of each event to provide fun and healthy activities in which children participate. The events also provide an opportunity for non-profit military support organizations to share how they support our military families at information booths.

The variety of events during this very special month always impresses me. The Annual Armed Services YMCA “Healthy Kids Day” event at Santo Baseball Field is an event where parents and their children participate in an afternoon of athletic play by challenging each other to many games such as the obstacle course or tug of war while sampling healthy snacks. Spring is in the air for the annual “Spring Fling” event sponsored by Naval Base San Diego MWR / Fleet & Family Support Center. Many fun activities take place for children to participate in to include multiple Easter egg hunts throughout the event. This event draws a large crowd of up to 5,000 attendees. Another event is the annual “Family Day on the Bay” event held at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot and sponsored by Marine Corps Community Services. This event provides a live band and DJ to help the military family attendees get in the spirit and has a large sandbox where volleyball games take place. Not to mention the good food provided by all.

All of the annual resource fairs provide fun as well as a plethora of information booths for the whole family to learn about the organizations in their local military community that are available to support them.
I am impressed with what a great job San Diego military installations do to recognize and support the military child during the month of April and all year through. To military children around the country, we celebrate you!

If you have a special way to recognize military children in your community, please share it with us.

Dave Coverly supports United Through Reading

Kara is pleased to feature Dave Coverly this week as he has donated an original cartoon for United Through Reading’s coloring contest in Celebration of the Month of the Military Child

 Dave Coverly works out of an attic studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan creating the cartoon, Speed Bump. When describing his work, Dave says “there is no overriding theme, no tidy philosophy. If life were a movie, these would be the outtakes.”

You have probably seen his syndicated cartoon in Parade Magazine. Or perhaps, The New Yorker. Or when you were visiting the offices of Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper?

In any case, Speed Bump is just about everywhere these days as is the recognition of Dave’s creative spirit. In 1995, and again in 2003, Speed Bump was given the Best Newspaper Panel award by the National Cartoonists Society, an honor for which it was also nominated again in 1997, 2001, and 2002. In 1998, the same organization gave him another award for Best Greeting Cards, which were nominated again in 1999.

All of this is amazing and then we learn that in 2009, Dave was given the prestigious Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, the highest honor awarded by The National Cartoonists Society. Unbelievable. Congratulations!

2009 also saw the release of Dave’s first major children’s book, Sue McDonald Had a Book, authored by Jim Tobin, and published by Henry Holt, Inc. Check out our United Through Reading’s booklist  http://www.unitedthroughreading.org/books/  to see that Sue has the top spot this month as our featured book. Their next book, The Very Inappropriate Word, will be published by Holt in 2012. We’re super excited to check out this book and will keep you posted on the release date.

So… how were we fortunate enough to persuade Dave to create a cartoon for United Through Reading’s first Month of the Military Child coloring contest? Let’s hear from Dave:

“The reason I became extremely interested in connecting with United Through Reading is actually very simple: I was fortunate enough to see first-hand what a profound and important effect this program has had, and is having, on the service members stationed all over the world. When I joined 9 other cartoonists (i.e., “Band of Boneheads”) on a USO trip to visit the troops in Iraq and Kuwait this past fall, I was struck by the power of technology, and the good it was doing on a personal level. Every single soldier I met was able to keep in touch with family via the USO Centers on base, and many of those soldiers also had children. Many of them told me how they were able to read a book aloud on DVD then send the DVD home, and it blew me away – thousands of miles apart, and these families still had the ability to do one of the most basic and important things possible: Read together. Now that I’m creating children’s books of my own, I knew I had to be a part of this small miracle.”

So thank you, Dave, from everyone at United Through Reading. And thank you Jeff Bacon, creator of Broadside®Cartoons and longtime friend of United Through Reading, for making such a meaningful introduction.

Social Media comes to United Through Reading

Marcia, our Social Media Manager, talks about what the job is like and what it means to her… and invites you to blog...

Social Media is a broad term used so often now, a buzz phrase now encompassing everything from Public Relations to Advertising, even fund raising. From the United Through Reading perspective we are utilizing the position to raise awareness of our programs, brand recognition, increase partnering with organizations and authors, even recognize our volunteers as well as beneficiaries of all three of our programs. What a great job! Really, how great is that? Knowing that each day I am able to tell someone new about the availability of a program which unites families who are apart utilizing the read aloud experience.

When I was originally asked to manage our Facebook page I was excited about it but had no idea the impact it would have on me personally. Every day I hear about another family’s experience with United Through Reading which motivates me to keep pushing the word out, to let more people know we are here for them. In a time of world stress with war on several fronts and natural disasters striking, it is such a ‘positive’ to be able to check our Facebook page and see the fun going on in homes, on ships and in the sand. Just yesterday I saw a video story posted by AFN featuring United Through Reading being offered via our partner USO in Afghanistan. http://bit.ly/eJXEtd  Another day a comment shared from a Grandparent who has recorded a DVD for a grandchild…I feel so fortunate to be able to meet many of these folks in person or via email and pictures. Doesn’t it make the world smaller? To have a comment from a parent in a war theater, to see a photo of that parent’s child receiving their DVD and sitting, enthralled, as the story unfolds. Of course it also speaks to the Navy spouse in me.

Another fascinating aspect of our Facebook and Social Media component is the relationship building with other organizations and those who support our mission. It is really exciting to be able to share information from those sources with you, to hear about opportunities of book discounts or other benefits which we think you’d enjoy. Researching new organizations and networking with their Social Media contacts has been professionally and personally rewarding.

Another aspect of my job is to fill in as media liaison on the east coast for stories such as when CNN featured us or NBC Nightly News’ Making a Difference segment. (Both seen on our website: http://www.unitedthroughreading.org/ ) While upwards of 9 hours of preparation, taping and editing can go into a 2 minute (or less!) video on TV, the opportunity to reach so many viewers is amazing. The Social Media job hours can be challenging but the energy is so high that it really keeps me going. It is fast paced, exciting, fun, exhausting and did I mention fun? I love my job.

As our Facebook fan base has expanded, so has the opportunity to share more information in an in depth fashion through READ! our blog. I thought the task of setting up the blog, coordinating the posting schedule, providing content material, even designing upcoming contests would be daunting. But the truth is that it is a joy. After taking the plunge into learning WordPress, the material has been flowing in. I invite you to share your stories with me at READourblog@unitedthroughreading.org (Blog posts which are selected will be edited) Whether you are a parent, grandparent or child, whether you have ties to our Military Program, Transitions Program or Grandparents Program, I would love to hear from you.

Here are a few Blog post guidelines:

• Identify your purpose and your audience.
• Keep posts to the point. 300-500 words.
• Use the first person singular. Writing in a conversational tone engages readers and we like hearing personal stories of your involvement with United Through Reading.
• When possible, include at least one image in your post. For help with appropriate photos, video, and other non-text material, contact the blog’s editor.
• Be respectful to United Through Reading, its partners, and recipients.
• Reinforce United Through Reading’s mission and values. Blogging is a great way to emphasize the principles shared by all those who work and volunteer for us, and to highlight how they relate to your work in particular.
• Keep in mind that all blog posts will be viewable – and able to be commented upon – by any reader.
• When in doubt, don’t type it out. Always feel free to ask the United Through Reading’s blog editors if you have any questions about what is appropriate to write or publish as a comment.
• Editors reserve the right to edit or delete any blog post at any time for any reason .

United Through Reading will not publish comments that contain any of the following:
• vulgarity, needlessly aggressive or rude language, nudity
• offensive comments that target or disparage any ethnic, racial, or religious group
• personal attacks of any kind including statements or material that defame, harass, abuse, stalk, threaten, or in any way infringe on the rights of others
• statements based on hearsay or made on behalf of another individual
• spam or links to personal or inappropriate sites
• items that are clearly off topic
• advocating of illegal activity
• promotion of services, products, or political organizations
• material that is copyrighted or trademarked
• disclosure of “personally identifiable information,” proprietary or privileged information, or information that could compromise the military’s security
Additional information about blog post submissions:
We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium and your submissions are invited. However, given the need to manage resources, we ask that you allow up to two business days for approval and notification of receipt of your post; We will try to let you know if and when it is published. When composing a post for READ! We need  your contact information to include, name, address and contact phone number as well as email address.

Basic HTML tags are allowed in the body of comments, including hyperlinks. Links to other websites are fine, as long as they are germane to the topic. Once a comment is submitted for moderation, it cannot be edited. It will be either approved or declined as is.
Thank you for taking the time to read this policy. We encourage your participation on ‘Read! our blog’. Please remember to be respectful toward the authors and your fellow posters. If something you are about to submit for approval makes you feel uncomfortable, think about your actions. When in doubt, don’t type it out !

If you haven’t “Liked” us yet on Facebook I invite you to visit us there, put United Through Reading in your FB search bar. Visit our website http://www.unitedthroughreading.org/  to see details of our programs.

My Daddy Is a Soldier by Anne Stratford

Second in Kara’s series, The Right Book, we are featuring a great book… while it is military centric, the message is wonderful for all our audience!

Our first highlight is My Daddy Is a Soldier by Anne Stratford. The story is one of “hope, understanding, and empowerment”. As the child thinks about what he misses when his Dad is deployed, he has a self-confident mantra that he “can do it!”. The positivity associated with this award winning book helps the child talk through the separation and the little things they miss when the parent is away. It’s tough, but he “can do it!” As parents read this book aloud on DVD through United Through Reading’s Military Program, they can affirm that they also miss helping with homework and reading in the big chair, but most of all, they love and miss the child. By acknowledging the child’s fears about separation, the parent can bolster the child by connecting with him in the pages of this book.

Author, Anne Stratford, is a fan of United Through Reading.
“I felt compelled to become involved with United Through Reading because their mission of uniting families facing physical separation so closely mirrored my own mission in writing My Daddy Is A Soldier for my nephew and nieces, who were struggling to cope with the deployment of their dad, my brother.
When families spend time snuggled up in their favorite spot reading a book together, noticing the tiny details of each page, making up funny voices, giggling and sharing along the way, it bonds them together. The moments are magical, but more importantly, they are irreplaceable….

I love that United Through Reading is creating opportunities for families to experience the kind of close, intimate moments they would normally share at home, even though they may be thousands of miles apart. It’s what makes this program exceptional, and it fills me with pride to be a part of it.”

We, at United Through Reading, appreciate Anne’s support as well as the generous gift of a discount to our readers from the publisher, Diamond Fly Publishing , Inc.
The site featuring My Daddy Is A Soldier is up and running! If you are interested in ordering the book for the special price of $15.99, please click the “like” button on the right side of our blog page to become our fan on FaceBook. Then go to http://www.mydaddyisasoldier.us and click on “United Through Reading.” Once you do, a box will appear asking you to enter a username and password. Here is the information you will need to enter:

Username: UnitedThroughReading (no spaces)
Password: UTR2011
Happy Reading. Hooah!