PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – When the USS George HW Bush strike group pulled out of Norfolk in August, many parents waved good bye to their kids. It will be months before they can tuck them in again at night, but they can still read them a bedtime story.

“It was really really fun to watch my son, my 18 month old interact with his Dad,” Jenny Lynne Stroup told WAVY.

Her husband, Lt. Commander Matthew Stroup, first started reading to his son while deployed on the Bush back in 2011.

“I watched that Eric Carle alligator book 59,000 times because that was the only one he wanted to watch,” Stroup said, laughing.

United Through Reading has set up libraries on all of the ships currently out to sea, where sailors can go make a recording or they can record on their own using the UTR app.

“We all value the time we get on a Skype call or when we get to speak to them on the phone,” said United Through Reading CEO Tim Farrell, “but time zones are difficult sometimes and missions are difficult sometimes and sometimes that child wants that story on demand.”

Farrell recorded on discs for his own sons while deployed to Iraq in 2011.

“Those reading routines as a family have made a difference in their development over the years and I’m grateful for that,” he told WAVY.

One of his son’s graduated High School magna cum laude. Another son is academic all state in Texas high school football.

“I don’t think that’s an accident,” Farrell said.

Jenny Lynne, who is also a teacher, used it in an unexpected way when she brought UTR into her first grade classroom.

“We were able to send videos of their children reading who had not been reading when they left and so – it makes me a little teary,” she said.

UTR connected 1,500 families in Hampton Roads through its app last year and is now celebrating connecting three million families since 1989.

These are families united, no matter the distance, cultivating a love of reading and of each other.

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