Reading program aims to unite military, veteran families

United Through Reading’s free program is available to Veterans and service members

United Through Reading has announced “Book for the Military Child” for 2023 as part of Operation Storytime, its three-year initiative to connect the next one million military and Veteran family members through the read aloud experience. The Book for the Military Child unites and celebrates military children across the globe through their shared experiences.

This year’s selection is Audrey Penn’s “The Kissing Hand.” In this story, Penn shares a message that it’s normal and common for children to express their feelings and that they can move forward with bravery.

The Kissing Hand captures something military-connected kids can relate to—the need to stay connected to a loved one, even when you can’t be with them. United Through Reading’s goal is to bring the military community together with one shared book for every military child. As part of this program, it will distribute 13,000 copies around the world in 2023.

The Kissing Hand “is a story about a young raccoon named Chester who was anxious about leaving home and going to school. So his mother decided to share a ‘family secret’ with him: the ‘kissing hand.’ She gave him a kiss on his paw and told him to press the kiss to his cheek whenever he missed her,” according to StoryOnline.

Like Chester the Raccoon, children of military service members may face anxious moments that their civilian counterparts do not. When a parent leaves home for a training exercise or deployment, young children may be unable to articulate their fears and worries, but know just the same that there is something in the air at home. When children relocate for frequent moves, being the new student at a new preschool or school can feel overwhelming.

The Kissing Hand offers a tangible way to recenter anxious emotions by remembering a parent’s small but meaningful gesture in order to recall the love and support of a parent during tough times.

In much the same way, United Through Reading offers a “kissing hand” of its own through its Story Stations and free app. United Through Reading’s free program is available to all branches of the military, regardless of duty status, including Veterans.

Service members or Veterans will read a book while being video recorded and then send the video and book back home to the child. The child at home watches the video and follows along with the book. When a child may be especially missing a parent who is away for military service, hearing the parent’s voice and seeing their face serves as a calming, loving reminder of the parent’s presence.

To get started saving your storytime moments, visit to sign up and request your free copy today.

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