Reading program brings families together

Story and photos by: Spc. Lisa A. Cope
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Although deployed parents cannot tuck their children in at night, they can still read them a bedtime story.

The United Through Reading program on Joint Base Balad, Iraq, offered by the United Service Organizations here, helps service members at JBB create a video recording of themselves reading a book and send the video and book home to their family.

The program is available at the USO from 10 a.m. to midnight every day. A mobile program is also available at the Catfish Air Terminal Mondays from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and at the Air Force Theater Hospital Fridays from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Jennifer Faux, a duty manager at the USO, is in charge of the program at JBB. She said it usually takes roughly 2 to 3 weeks for the recording and book to reach the child.

Any service member, stationed on or passing through JBB, may record one book per child per week, which allows multiple recordings for households with more than one child, said Faux.

Service members have also made recordings to be played in classrooms, in which they read a book and explain what life is like in Iraq, she said.

In August, the USO at JBB sent out more than 1,500 books through the program. Faux said the USO is scheduled to receive a shipment of more than 2,500 books within the week and hopes to send out even more recordings and books this month.

Books are available in English or Spanish, however, accommodations can be made for service members who need a different language, said Faux.

Creativity is encouraged, she said. Many service members dance, sing, use puppets or play instruments to individualize the program.

Sgt. Maj. Charles Wells, the distribution sergeant major for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), said he used the program twice to read to his 9-year-old daughter while traveling to Q-West.

“I was reading to her before I left, so this is a way for me to keep it going,” said Wells, a Pompano Beach, Fla., native.

The program helps service members strengthen the bond with their family members during deployments and helps instill an appreciation for reading in children, said Faux.

United Through Reading is not just for younger children. Chapter books such as the Harry Potter series or “Charlotte’s Web,” are available for older children, said Faux.

Wells said the program helps him stress the importance of reading to his daughter and gives her a chance to see him.

“It lets her know that I’m always thinking of her, every chance I get,” said Wells.

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Criss practices before his recording, Sept 23, at the USO on JBB.
(U.S.Army Photo by Spc. Lisa A. Cope)

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Criss selects a book from the bookshelf before his reading Sept. 23, at the USO on JBB.
(U.S. Army photo by: Spc. Lisa A. Cope)

 

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Sgt. Maj. Charles Wells, the distribution sergeant major for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 15th Sustainment Brigade out of Q-West, Iraq, displays the book he selected to read to his daughter as part of the United Through Reading program, at the United Service Organizations chapter on Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by: Spc. Lisa A. Cope)

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1st. Lt. Francis E. Criss, the liaision for the 137th Field Artillery Battalion, adjusts the camera before his reading Sept. 23 at the United Service Organizations chapter on Joint Base Balad. Criss says he reads to his 2-month-old daughter so she can hear his voice and see his face at the same time.
(U.S. Army photo by: Spc. Lisa A. Cope)