By Summer BarkleyAugust 2, 2011
A white rocking chair in front of a hand-made quilt wall hanging and a reading lamp set the scene for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings to read a familiar children’s book to their children. They won’t be able to end the story with a good night kiss because about 9 time zones and thousands of miles separate them, but the United Through Reading room that opened at the 401st Army Field Support Brigade headquarters area July 10 is the next best thing.
The United Through Reading Military Program aims to ease the stress of separation for military families by providing a way for deployed parents to record a DVD of themselves reading books to their children and sending the DVD home to the child where it can be played over and over. The 401st United Through Reading program is also able to allow the reader to have the book sent to the child so they can read along with the DVD.
“Soldiers don’t have to pay for anything, only the time they’re willing to invest,” said Maj. Jennifer L. Mahoney who spearheaded the effort.
Books have been purchased for the program and donors from eight states have sent books to Mahoney. She said some of the donors are anonymous. She created wish lists on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com and has received donations from 46 donors. Books range from board books for infants to books for elementary school age children. Mahoney said she had 2,159 books including some vintage Golden Books that still bear the $.39 price.
After receiving approval from the command, Mahoney began working with the brigade S4 to acquire books and some of the necessary equipment; S7 to get a connex and get it put into place and wired for electricity; the USO who mails the books and DVDs to the children; and she received the gift of the quilt from her mother’s quilting group, the St. Albert’s Piece Makers from Sun Prairie, Minn.; and the rocking chair from co-worker Patty Creque’s home station office at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.
During the grand opening, 401st personnel browsed the books and were heard to comment that they remembered certain books and had read this or that book to their children.
“This is a way to maintain or keep a presence with the children,” Mahoney said. “It helps morale to stay connected.”
Brigade chaplain, CH (Capt.) Nathan Witt echoed these sentiments during the grand opening. He called the reading room a “joy multiplier.” He said his daughter is his joy and showed a photo of his daughter in front of a television with the DVD he had recorded and sent to her. She was clearly delighted to have her Dad reading to her which, in turn, increased his joy at having been able to send the book and DVD.
The United Through Reading room is open to all 401st personnel and can be accessed by contacting Mahoney or the Chaplain’s office to schedule a time.