Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation Connects Military Families During the Holidays with a Gift of 10,000 Books for Virtual Storytime

December 13, 2022

Through its “Literacy Lights” initiative, Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation partners to provide Tennessee military service members and their children with books to read together while they are apart

Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF), whose mission is to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee, partners with United Through Reading to connect military service members with their children through the gift of reading this holiday season. GELF is providing 10,000 books for military service members to video-record reading them aloud, and the recording and book will be sent to their children at home in Tennessee.

Through GELF’s gift, 1,220 military-connected children, birth to age eight across Tennessee, including Tennessee National Guard, Air National Guard, Naval Support Activity Mid-South, NSA Mid-South CDC, families stationed at Fort Campbell, and the 4th Marines Recruiting District, will receive eight high-quality, age-appropriate books to keep families reading together and a book light to remind them of their loved ones. Service members can read the donated books aloud while being privately recorded with the United Through Reading App, and the videos and books will be sent to their children.

Through the Literacy Lights initiative, Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation partners with United Through Reading to provide 10,000 books that service members and their families can read together via video recording.

There are nearly 38,000 active duty, Guard, and Reserve military children in Tennessee, making it the 12th-largest military child state in the country. Research shows one third of the military children from active-duty families reported symptoms of anxiety. School-age military children are especially vulnerable to the stress related to frequent transitions, as they must simultaneously cope with normal developmental stressors such as establishing peer relationships, conflict in parent/child relationships, and increased academic demands.

A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study states parenting practices associated with positive child outcomes in emotional, behavioral, cognitive and social competence include both routines and shared book reading. Research shows reading aloud with military children on a regular basis through United Through Reading videos encourages early literacy and language skills, vocabulary development and growth, and fosters a love of reading that promises they will be lifelong readers.

“The gift of reading not only gives children an opportunity for a brighter future, but it can bring comfort and bond families,” said James Pond, GELF President. “As a Marine, I was often overseas during my oldest children’s earliest years. If we would’ve had thoughtful, intentional programs like this that build personal connections through reading, the separation and transition from ‘Sergeant’ to ‘Dad’ would’ve been easier. Through this initiative, we encourage Tennesseans to support all families in reading together, especially those who are separated this holiday season.”

Ninety-seven percent of families said the United Through Reading (UTR) program made family bonds stronger and that the recordings made deployments or separations easier. Additionally, 90% of families reported an increase in a child’s love of reading since watching UTR video recordings.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation to bring books to over a thousand military-connected children across Tennessee, including Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve families,” said Tim Farrell, CEO of United Through Reading. “Whether a parent is gone for a drill weekend or a deployment, special story time moments of reading aloud together are lost. We believe this simple gift of reading together will help these families save story time moments, no matter the distance.”

“When you’re away and you’re sometimes worrying, are the kids missing you? So just knowing that they have United Through Reading to be able to utilize definitely makes you feel better,” said an Army Reserve Officer.

“As a military family, you have that challenge of keeping the family connected. United Through Reading is our favorite connection, keeping my husband a present part of our family when he was away,” said military spouse Veronica Boblett.

This gift is a part of GELF’s annual year-end Literacy Lights initiative to connect distanced families through the gift of reading during the holiday season, made possible with key support from Amazon.

“We’ve been proud to partner with GELF on several of their programs in recent years, and I’ve personally seen firsthand the difference they make in Tennessee,” said Courtney Ross, Amazon’s Sr. Manager of Community Engagement in Nashville. “There is something magical about the connection parents and children share through reading together and, as a company, we’re happy to contribute this season as GELF continues this vital work.” 

GELF encourages Tennesseans to give the gift of reading this holiday season by donating to their cause. For more information on how to donate, visit our giving page.

About United Through Reading

United Through Reading keeps military families reading ready, no matter the distance between them. Families stay connected through story time video recordings and books sent to military families. These stories ease the stress of time apart due to military duty, maintain positive emotional connections, and cultivate a love of reading and early childhood literacy. Service members and veterans can record a story for their family at more than 200 United Through Reading recording locations worldwide, as well as on their mobile device with our free and secure reading App. Since 1989, 2.7 million military members and their families have benefited from the program. For more information, visit