USS George H.W. Bush Celebrates Reading, Family Readiness Connection

Ellert Georgesson, 5, peeks into the book “The Kiss Box” as Dorothy “Doro” Bush Koch reads to children and family aboard the carrier George H.W. Bush at Norfolk Naval Station on Wednesday. Koch is the ship's sponsor. At right is the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Brian Luther.

By Mass Communication Specialist(SW/AW) Timothy Walter, USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) — USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and Doro Bush Koch, the ship’s sponsor, continued their support for children’s literacy and strong military families by hosting a celebration of reading in the ship’s hangar bay, May 16.

Hundreds of Sailors and their children mingled with Clifford the Big Red Dog prior to watching presentations by Sally Ann Zoll, Ed. D., Chief Executive Officer for United Through Reading (UTR), an organization dedicated to bringing military families together through spoken literature, and Judy Cheatum, Ph. D., Vice President of Literary Services for Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the largest children’s literary nonprofit organization in the United States. 

George H.W. Bush Commanding Officer Capt. Brian E. Luther, read “The Little Engine That Could” while Koch chose “The Kiss Box.” Koch, who is also the co-chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, has encouraged the crew to maintain contact with their loved ones during times of separation by using the UTR program. 

“I’m honored to be part of this terrific literacy event to share a touching story of love, comfort and family connections,” said Koch. “As a daughter of a decorated Navy pilot and former commander in chief, I have the deepest respect for our men and women who serve. And I’m grateful to the children who are willing to share a parent – sometimes even two – so their mom and dad can perform this most noble cause for our country.”

During the ship’s first operational deployment, the UTR program allowed Sailors to record more than 1,500 videos, providing a simple and effective means to communicate with their family members. Sailors simply chose a book, took a seat in front of a video camera and read aloud to their loved ones. A DVD of the sessions was then sent to their families at no cost.

“United Through Reading is honored to be a part of this celebration,” said Zoll. “USS George H.W. Bush has made a huge commitment to literacy, serving more than 8,000 beneficiaries through the United Through Reading Military Program on their last deployment. We salute their pledge to honor and read to their children while also serving our country.” 

Each child who attended received four books, including Koch’s selection “The Kiss Box.” 

“Even as they are deployed overseas, moms and dads serving this country are staying close with their children through the power of books,” said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. “RIF is honored to be working with USS George H.W. Bush to give families the books and creative tools they need to erase the distance of deployment.”

George H.W. Bush is homeported at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va.