Family Focus Friday: Story Time

398133_451908898196231_590959800_nMy favorite book to read as a kid was The Monster at the End of This Book, but my fondest memory is of my mom reading The Hobbit to me. When she recounted Bilbo’s adventures in the cave, where he would eventually find the ring, I remember being so scared that I would bury my head under the covers. Like that would somehow help Bilbo.

When I was a teenager, my sister and my nephew lived with us for a time. I learned a lot about caring for babies and toddlers those first few years of his life, and I especially loved sharing Grover’s antics with my little polar bear. That was my nickname for him.

I left for the Navy before he was old enough to appreciate the Hobbit’s Tale, but I stayed connected with him, and the rest of my family, through phone calls and letters. I missed much of his adolescence, though, because my duty stations and deployments were never in Colo. Go figure.

Now he’s a typical 16-year-old who hates school and wants to play video games for a living. When we do see each other at the usual family gatherings, we don’t have much to talk about. Maybe it’s because of the age difference, but I think part of it has to do with his growing up without my constant presence in his life.

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jennifer Kleve, left, a medic with Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Farah, helps set up a camera for U.S. Army Capt. Jacob Estrada, right, security force commander for the PRT, prior to his participation in a United Through Reading Read-a-thon on FOB Farah, Jan. 18. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jennifer Kleve, left, a medic with Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Farah, helps set up a camera for U.S. Army Capt. Jacob Estrada, right, security force commander for the PRT, prior to his participation in a United Through Reading Read-a-thon on FOB Farah, Jan. 18. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup

It makes me wish I had known about United Through Reading when we were first separated. The program connects military members with their children, or other young family members, by allowing them to record a DVD of themselves reading a book, which is then sent to the kids left at home.

Not only is the program available for parents physically separated from their kids; aunts, uncles, older siblings, grandparents and even mentors can take advantage of this program to stay connected with the kids who are a part of their lives.

“The mission of United Through Reading is to unite parents and children facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together,” said Betty Mohlenbrock, Navy spouse and founder of United Through Reading.

The program is available to service members at multiple locations around the world. Click HERE for a complete list of participating commands and other locations where you can take part.

To learn more about the history of United Through Reading, watch THIS video, or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter.

How has United Through Reading helped you stay connected with your family? Share your experience in the comments.

By Nicole McFarland, Defense Media Activity

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