Program lets deployed troops read to children

USAF photo: Tech. Sgt. Scott Farley Tech. Sgt. David Aceveda reads a children’s book in front of a video camera Sept. 24 inside the USO Community Center on Dover AFB, Del., as part of the United Through Reading program. While Aceveda is deployed, the pre-recorded DVD and book will be sent to his children. Aceveda is a member of the 744th Communications Squadron at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md.

By Tech. Sgt. Scott P. Farley: 512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — United Through Reading offers parents the chance to read to their children every day, an opportunity many servicemembers haven’t had in the past.

The reading is recorded onto a DVD and sent with a copy of the book to the servicemember’s child.

“United Through Reading’s partnership with the USO has led to a program that encourages children to read, but also encourages a family to read together,” said Joe Danner, a USO Delaware volunteer and coordinator of the local United Through Reading program. “This program is available to any deployed or deploying troops.”

Deployed servicemembers can go to more than 60 USO locations, or 200 other Department of Defense sites, to record themselves reading a book to their children. USO officials encourage servicemembers to be animated and personalize the book as much as possible.

“It’s very simple,” Danner said. “We have a small camera that records right to a DVD. We try to give the (servicemembers) some privacy and let them read. No one else sees the DVD but you and your family.”

Deployed servicemembers are not limited to just one book on one occasion.

According to Danner, servicemembers can read a book for each of their children, and participate at as many locations as they like.

Tech. Sgt. David Aceveda, a 744th Communications Squadron member at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md., read books to his children Sept. 24, before deploying in October.

“This is wonderful for anybody who has a child and is going to be gone for a while,” Aceveda said. “This means a lot to me, because this will really help them remember who Daddy is.”

Aceveda, whose two youngest children are both under two years old, said he wasn’t nervous with the video camera and had done something similar in the past but had recently heard of this USO reading program during his pre-deployment briefings.

He added his older children, who were toddlers when he deployed to Kuwait in 2000, were able to speak to him on the phone, but it wasn’t the same as being able to see him in the video.

“They didn’t correlate my voice to my face,” Aceveda said. “That’s why a DVD is especially important for kids, because they can watch Mom or Dad as many times as they want. It’s a very personal way for a deployed parent to keep a connection to (his or her) kids.”