Reading program keeps military families connected


CORONADO, Calif. (KGTV) — A Coronado-based nonprofit is expanding how it helps military families stay connected through deployments.

This week, United Through Reading launched a podcast to promote family reading time. They also donated a statue to the Coronado Library.

“It makes my heart swell,” says CEO Dr. Sally Ann Zoll. “Sometimes I’m left speechless, so it’s an honor.”

United Through Reading has been around for 32 years, helping deployed military moms and dads stay connected with their kids. Parents record themselves reading a book and the video is sent to the family.

“It’s mom or dad on demand,” says Dr. Zoll.

She estimates they have helped 2.5 million military families. The videos ensure that children form a bond with their deployed parent.

“That emotional connection you get when you read a story together is what we do. And it works,” says Dr. Zoll.

This was especially helpful for Christy VanVleck. Her husband, Nate, is on his second straight deployment on the USS Jackson. He sent more than 30 videos to his 2-year-old daughter, Amylia, thanks to United Through Reading.

“We used to try to get him to record books before we knew the UTR,” VanVleck says. “But every time he would send the book, especially when he was overseas, we could never get the data to be able to send…” Now we look at the whole book. She would be so excited for Dad to finish the book rather than just a 15 second clip.”

United Through Reading has over 200 dedicated reading stations around the world. They also recruit a deployed serviceman or woman to run the program on the ships. Dr. Zoll says it makes deployed parents feel like they’re helping out at home, even thousands of miles away.

“A serviceman (whose wife is on deployment) calls it ‘Shower United,’ or ‘Dinner Kitchen United,’ or ‘Laundry United,'” Dr. Zoll says. say mom is going to read you a story right away and he comes running in and does the dishes. Then he says thank you honey for watching them…

“If you are ready to read at home, hopefully your spouse who is in the military can be ready for the mission and not worry about you because he or she knows there will be a connection with children at home.”

VanVleck says she can see her daughter’s love for Nate grow every time they read together.

“I would hate for him to come home and for her to be sad or shy to be around him. She loves dad more than anything,” she says. “To be able to have this app where I can bring dad here, even though he’s not physically there, it just feels like I’m doing my part as a parent, as a mother, to make sure that ‘she’s connected to dad.”

For more information about United Through Reading, or to donate, visit their website here.


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