September 19, 2017

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”.

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.

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.

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  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.

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 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!

READ! the right book

Kara, our Director of Business Development, starts her series on READ! the right book. She will be sharing tips for selection as well as highlighting books.

How important is choosing the right book when you are going to read a book aloud on DVD to your child? To us at United Through Reading we believe the right book is really important. We want every child to watch their DVD for the first or the 100th time and connect to Mommy, Daddy, Grandma Ruth, or Uncle Stephen because the magical pages in the book have enabled the reader to bridge the miles that separate them from a child who they love and miss. The good news is that there are many talented authors and illustrators out there. Every day, we get great information from our partnership with James Patterson and his website Read Kiddo Read ( that powers our booklist. Here you can find the right book for your child. Patterson’s list includes books that are reviewed according to strict read aloud criteria and help our readers keep up with the latest and greatest releases. We also love authors who tackle content like separation, the beauty of a season, or the celebration around a child losing her tooth. These titles will be added to our list in the categories “Connecting During Separation” and “Special Occasions, Emotions, and Seasons”. We will be highlighting many of these for you in this series.

So what’s really important in choosing the right book? We (and Books for Life®) agree on four things – enthusiasm, age appropriateness, illustrations, and content. First and foremost, you should love the book or at least have enthusiasm for the subject of the book. Your child will be delighted if you are excited. Next, the book has to be age appropriate. Your child must be able to identify with the story. Is your child learning the alphabet? Is she missing you? Is he grumpy because he has to clean up his room? Is she on the cusp of graduating from high school? No matter the situation, there’s a book for that! Great illustrations are also key for children of all ages. What is the size and style? Are they big enough for children to discern on the DVD recording? Last but not least is, of course, content. We could write all day about the content. Is your child going to celebrate a birthday while you are away? Are swimming lessons around the corner… and how does your child feel about the water? What is the message you are trying to share?

There are lots of books out there that will help you connect with your children or grandchildren when you are far away. Over the next  weeks, we are going to highlight books that have content that relates to separation or special occasions, emotions, or seasons. If you have books that really speak to you that you’d like to share with us, please use the comment section provided. We’d love to hear from you! Join us next week for our first highlighted book.