We know that reading aloud is a proven technique to help children cope during times of stress and anxiety, whether because of natural disaster, separation from a parent, or another difficult situation.
Military families face unique pressures, including separation, deployment, injury, or even the death of a parent. Reach Out and Read launched an initiative in 2006 to make sure that military families have access to books and reading advice via their base pediatricians.
“Reading to children improves family relationships, reduces stress, and promotes resiliency,” said Dr. Eric Flake, Major, U.S. Air Force, and developmental-behavioral pediatrician. “In fact, parents reading daily to their children may be one of the greatest protective factors for families during deployment.”
Reading to children in difficult times can provide them with a sense of stability and routine to help ease their stress. Reading also provides close bonding time with parents, which can be beneficial to children in difficult times.
A consistent reading routine can help parents to focus on something other than the stressor, and regain some normalcy in the household.
To maintain reading rituals, military families preparing for a deployment often create video or audio recordings of the soon-to-be-deployed parent reading to the children, which can be played in his or her absence. If technology allows, deployed parents can read to their children via video chat. This can help parents and children stay connected through the period of separation.
The experts at Reach Out and Read have compiled a special list of doctor-recommended books for children of military families. Among the titles are:
- While You Were Away by Eileen Spinelli (Hyperion Books for Children, 2004) Three children anticipate happy reunions with their parents, who are on active military duty abroad.
- Courage by Bernard Waber (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2002)
- Red, White, and Blue: The Story of the American Flag by John Herman (Grosset & Dunlap, 1998)
- The Jet Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2002)
- My Big Brother by Miriam Cohen (Star Bright Books, 2008)
- The Flag We Love by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000)
For a full list of doctor-recommended books for children of military families, click here.