FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The ability to read is viewed as one of the most fundamental skills in society today, and the Military Child Education Coalition wants to make sure children get an early start on literacy.

That's why the MCEC and the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation will host the Tell Me A Story event with special guest reader, Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. as a means to promote child literacy and give families much needed time together, according to Heather Dunton, of Parent to Parent MCEC.

"We try to reach out and express the importance of early literacy," she said. "We choose a book that is age appropriate (and) that is a fun, educational story that can relate to military children in different ways."

The book chosen for the event is called "Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot," which is about the Berlin Airlift that took place after World War II, said Dunton.

The story features a girl who lived in Berlin and heard about a pilot who was dropping candy to children all over the city. She wasn't able to get any of the candy, so she wrote a letter to him, and he ended up sending some directly to her.

Dunton said that the stories chosen for the event are chosen because of the messages that they convey, and this particular story conveys the message of hope.

"The message is about how he was able to instill hope in her and the other children of Berlin after the war," she said. "Yes, the story is about dropping candy to children, but it's really about instilling hope in people, and that's a value that all kids can learn and apply to their own lives."

The story was also chosen for its tie-in to the Aviation community, which was something Dunton said she hopes the children are able to relate to.

The event is meant to cater to children ages 4-12, but all family members are welcome, she said.

"Our biggest goal with the event is obviously to promote literacy, but it's also about family time," said Dunton. "It's about taking the stories and applying them to real life -- figuring out what the story is really about."

The story time will also feature some hands-on activities with crafts to be made, featuring airplanes, parachutes and candy to be dropped to the children.

The event is open to the public but people are asked to RSVP since space is limited to 50 families, and each family will be taking home a copy of the book.

People can reserve a spot by emailing ptop.enterprise@militarychild.org. Dunton said people should include how many family members will be attending, as well as the ages of each child.

For more information, call 255-9810.