Meet Our Clients: United Through Reading Military Nonprofit

Recently, AnyPromo was lucky enough to play a small part in the work of a fantastic non-profit. We hope you will take a minute to read about the work they do and how you can help support this military

For many children, bedtime stories are an essential part of the day. Although tired, many parents make a genuine effort to spend some quality time reading with their children. Daily reading models habits that support children’s futures. Current research shows that illiteracy has an intergenerational effect., an adult literacy nonprofit, claims that children of adults with low literacy are 72% more likely to be at a low reading level in school. Children in low socioeconomic backgrounds face additional obstacles such as lack of available reading materials, non-native status, and parents’ lack of time to read. Among some of the most vulnerable populations are children of military families. According to the United Through Reading organization, is estimated that every year, more than 100,000 military parents deploy and leave nearly 250,000 children at home ( Families that deal with deployment or separation don’t have the physical two-parent support that other families have. While many of these families are intact, the overwhelming load of childcare on one parent can be intense. Daily reading can be hard or seem like an impossible task for the remaining parent to tackle at the end of the day especially if they are working. Although a more manageable issue thanks to technology, physical separation between children and their deployed parents can cause a lot of family tension and make a service member feel estranged when they return home.

What United Through Reading Does

The nonprofit, United Through Reading (UTR) has tackled these important issues surrounding military families for over 30 years. UTR was founded in 1989 by reading specialist Betty Mohlenbrock whose husband was deployed in the military while their young child was still an infant. Unfortunately upon Mr.Molenbark’s arrival, their child didn’t recognize him. Taking her family’s disappointment and pain, Ms.Mohlenbrock decided to start a reading program to promote child-parent bonding and child literacy during deployments. Since then, UTR has been committed to its mission of closing the bedtime story gap for children of service members and as of 2016 has recorded over 8 million bedtime stories. UTR has been able to able to accomplish this through its network of over 200 reading recording stations across the nation and on U.S military bases around the world. Initially starting on Mohlenbrock’s camcorder, the reading recordings are now can be done via the UTR app. While today’s technology has made it possible for service members to stay connected to their families, UTR still helps greatly by sending books and facilitating recordings for those deployed in low-service areas or at sea.

Talking with Tonya from United Through Reading

Tonya Wood, the UTR director for the National Guard and Reserve says that this program allows deployed service members to remain a part of the family’s daily routine when they are not physically present. Tonya and her two sons used the program with her husband who was deployed in the National Guard. She noted that even though Facetime is great, the focus on reading ensures that young children and their service members have something to talk about. In her experience, the structure and guided conversations facilitated through the readings made for more quality moments shared.

Tonya Wood boothing for UTR

“If you’ve ever had the pleasure of Facetiming with a toddler, you know it’s really not all it’s cracked out to be because their attention span isn’t there. They want to show you the wall or the ceiling or they are spinning in circles. There were quite a few times when my husband would call and my youngest would say, “Dad can you call back later because Curious George is on!”

Tonya Wood

Why Reading Makes An Impact

Sharing the reading activity together gives parent and child a common experience to talk about but also opens the door for a deeper dialogue about the lessons coming from the books. 

Tonya stated that sometimes her husband would leave a book unfinished in order to encourage the children to finish the book for him and share the details with him during his next call. 

Many other military families have successfully used the program to stay connected to their children or the special children in their life during deployments which can be emotionally and physically draining. Cloe Driscoll, a wife, and mother who also participated in the program with her family during her husband’s deployment to Afghanistan explain just how much of an impact it had on her partner.

He kind of got lost in it a little bit I think… it was a little break for him where he could feel connected to us in the midst of all the craziness going on.”

Cloe Driscoll

Beary Cute Kits for Kids

Recently, Tonya lead her team in a project that sent reading kits to 4,800 families in the program. In those kits, each family received books, a phone stand to record videos, and a cuddly stuffed bear. Tonya notes that the stuffed bears were out of stock the first time she placed the order with another promotional distributor. With her deadline approaching and children waiting for their reading kits, Tonya reached out to AnyPromo and was able to quickly order and receive the custom teddy bears she needed to finish the kits.

I remember my phone call with Gina bless her heart that she did not hang up, she helped me order 4800 bears with our logo on it that we put in these kits that went to kids throughout the U.S!”

Tonya Wood

Tonya notes that many of the kits are still going out to families at UTR booths across the country thanks to local volunteer groups. While we acknowledge our contribution was small compared to what this organization does for countless military families, AnyPromo feels lucky and proud to have been able to assist UTR in completing these reading kits. We knew we needed to highlight this amazing organization committed to supporting American military families to the rest of our customers and community. 

Honoring Service Families with United Through Reading

It’s important to not only acknowledge what our fallen or active military members sacrificed but also what their families sacrificed. Supporting United Through Reading’s mission is one great way to help both our service members and their families have a better life. For those interested in supporting UTR financially or volunteering, please visit for more information! For more articles like these, check out the rest of our blogs, we write about great clients that are doing amazing work and using promotional items in the best, most creative ways.


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