United Through Reading Set to Develop First Free Read-Aloud App for Military Families with Interactive Book Features

SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–At this year’s Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting
in Atlanta, United Through Reading (UTR) commits to develop an iOS and
Android mobile app that will build on UTR’s proven model of allowing
military families to experience reading aloud together while deployed or
away on active-duty assignment. UTR leads partners Kindoma, First Book,
and Too Small to Fail in this Commitment to Action to further expand
access to the program which will benefit 10,000 military members,
spouses, and children within the first year of development.

What you need to know about UTR’s Commitment to
Action:

  • UTR commits to develop an iOS and Android mobile app that will allow
    military families to experience reading aloud together while deployed
    or away on active-duty assignment.
  • Commitment partners include UTR, Kindoma, First Book, and Too Small to
    Fail.
  • The commitment includes app development and seeks to benefit at least
    10,000 military members, spouses, and children within the first year
    of development.
  • The app will provide the ability to pre-record book readings and the
    ability to read books together over live video chat with the book
    appearing on each user’s screen.
  • App development will begin September 2016 and continue through August
    2017.
  • Commitment partners are seeking a research and evaluation partner.

“In our more than 25 years, the need for connecting military families
has not changed; however, the context in which we operate has changed
drastically,” says United Through Reading Chief Executive Officer Sally
Ann Zoll, Ed.D. “The technology landscape around video delivery has been
radically disrupted in the past five years; mobile devices and
applications now provide the opportunity for UTR to reach more
constituents at a lower cost. We’re grateful we have strong and expert
partners to help us deliver this option to our military families.”

The four-organization partnership consists of UTR leading program
management and implementation; Kindoma creating the app; First Book
working with its publishing partners to curate the app’s book
collection; and Too Small to Fail creating parent-directed printable tip
sheets and other resources to help military parents support their
children’s early literacy skills and help families stay connected
through language-rich activities like talking, reading and singing.

The app will provide the ability to pre-record book readings with video
synchronized to page view and, when a live connection is possible, the
ability to read books together over live video chat with the same page
of the book appearing on each user’s screen. Additionally, evaluation
tools will be integrated into the app; commitment partners are currently
seeking a research and evaluation partner.

The Department of Defense’s Defense Manpower Data Center has estimated
that more than 114,000 service members were separated from their
families in 2015 due to service related obligations; approximately
224,000 children are affected by these separations. Military families,
especially children, can be at a disadvantage due to the challenges of
military service; about one third of the military children surveyed by
UTR reported symptoms of anxiety. Additionally, a recent study by the
RAND Corporation found an association between children who have endured
long separations from a parent due to military deployment and lower
achievement in reading and math. The UTR app will be developed to allow
connections to be forged and maintained while families deal with the
difficulty of being apart, and to encourage early literacy skills and
language development in military children who may struggle academically.

“The UTR app development will begin this September and continue through
August of the following year,” said Zoll. “This commitment leverages
emerging technologies, and wonderful partnerships, in order to more
efficiently expand our reach, providing this unique and important
service to more military members across the globe, even in locations in
which UTR does not currently have a physical presence.”

For more than 25 years, United Through Reading (UTR) has been connecting
U.S. military families across all branches of service who face physical
separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud
together. The organization has served almost two million beneficiaries
since its founding. In 2015, United Through Reading was recognized by
the Library of Congress for its contribution to literacy in the military
community, and in 2016 was the inaugural recipient of the Congressional
Medal of Honor Society’s Community Service Hero Award.

About United Through Reading

United Through Reading is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) public benefit
organization that has been in service for 27 years; its mission is to
unite military families facing physical separation by facilitating the
bonding experience of reading aloud together. United Through Reading
offers service members the opportunity to be video-recorded reading
storybooks to children at home which eases the stress of separation,
maintains positive emotional connections, and cultivates a love of
reading and early childhood literacy. At more than 200 recording
locations worldwide, service members can read to the children who are
special to them on military bases and outposts, deployed U.S. Navy
ships, U.S. Coast Guard cutters and at select USOs. Since its inception,
nearly 2 million military parents, spouses and children have benefited
from the program. For more information, visit unitedthroughreading.org
and follow us on Twitter @UTR4Military
and Facebook at facebook.com/unitedthroughreading.

About Clinton Global Initiative America

Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America brings together leaders from the
business, philanthropic, nonprofit, and government sectors to develop
solutions that encourage economic growth, support long-term
competitiveness, and increase social mobility in the United States. CGI
America’s annual convening is designed to be a working meeting that
promotes collaboration. Each CGI America participant makes a Commitment
to Action: a new, specific, and measurable plan that supports increased
economic growth and opportunity. To date, CGI America participants have
made more than 500 commitments, which have improved the lives of nearly
2.4 million people. For more information, visit cgiamerica.org.

Contacts

United Through Reading (UTR)
Taylor Monaco
Director of
Communications
619-820-6941