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Story time: Separated families stay 'United Through Reading'

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --  Senior Airman Amayou Smith reads "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" into the camera as part of the "United Through Reading" program here. United Through Reading is a Family Literacy Foundation and United Services Organization program that allows servicmembers at remote locations to read to their children or young family members on video. Airman Smith is with the 51st Communications Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rojek)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Senior Airman Amayou Smith reads "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" into the camera as part of the "United Through Reading" program here. United Through Reading is a Family Literacy Foundation and United Services Organization program that allows servicmembers at remote locations to read to their children or young family members on video. Airman Smith is with the 51st Communications Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rojek)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Once upon a time there was an Airman who traveled all over the world to defend her great nation. Unfortunately, there were times when she couldn't see her young children for months. "How can I keep in touch and let them know I love them?" she asked herself.

Well here in Mustang territory, the United Services Organization is giving Team Osan a way to stay connected to their young children, siblings, or nieces and nephews by reading stories.

The United Through Reading program lets those stationed at remote locations read stories to their little loved ones on video. The DVD is then sent to the child at home, along with a copy of the book that was read. This allows the child to read along with their deployed family member.

"Deployment not only affects those who have volunteered for service, but also the hundreds of thousands of military children left behind," said Betty Mohlenbrock, founder and president of Family Literacy Foundation, a partner in the program. "Our goal is to lessen the strain of separation and increase bonding through the positive, educational experience that reading aloud provides."

Spending time together reading is important for both the adult and the child, said Ms. Monica Hoagland, information specialist at Osan American Elementary School.

"Those who are unaccompanied here miss out on the chance to spend quality time with their children, and the children miss out on being with them," said Ms. Hoagland. "With this technology, people have a wonderful opportunity to let their children see their face and hear their voice. They'll appreciate you taking your time out to do that for them."

The program is open to Osan's servicemembers and U.S. civilians and contractors. While it is recommended to make an appointment, people can stop by the base library on Thursdays after 3 p.m. to make the recordings. There are many books to choose from, in both English and Spanish, but if a person wants to read a book not on the list, the USO can try to order it. The DVDs can be up to 30 minutes in length, so shorter books are recommended. However, people can come in as many times as they want to read.

"The USO tries to develop morale programs for servicemembers around the world," said Ms. Charlotte Huntsman, USO director of programs and marketing. "And this program is awesome - it's a way to virtually keep in touch with your loved ones."

Team Osan members who are interested in using this program can call Ms. Aeyoung Lim at 011-440-9015 or DSN 784-3491.

"Reading to kids is very important," said Ms. Hoagland. "It's spending time together, the child is learning, you're showing that reading is important, and you're showing that the child is important."

And, through the power of reading, they all lived happily ever after.