On October 20th, 2010 we announced we were giving away 100,000 free children’s books to parents in the U.S. military using our kids books online service A Story Before Bed. Between then and March 2nd, 2011 we’ve given away an average of 746 children’s book recordings each day to families with a deployed or deploying parent. Children’s recordings have been made from as far away as Iraq and Afghanistan and as close as Fort Lewis, WA. Seeing our strong, tough, and brave soldiers sit down in front of their computer and sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider to their small children is an incredible and moving scene.
Sometimes soldiers sit down and record a dozen stories at once before their deployment. In other cases you can see the service member sitting down in their barracks under the harsh glare of the fluorescent lights, in their fatigues, with their close cropped haircuts gently reading one of their child’s favorites stories, wishing them sweet dreams, and asking them to be good for the parent who’s remained at home to take care of them. (And sometimes it’s the spouse or children back at home reading a story to the soldier stationed far away from home.)
So you can get a sense of how cool this is, we’ve gotten permission to share these two recordings with all of you. These soldiers are reading to their far away little ones from somewhere in the world.
- Watch a soldier reading (and singing) The Itsy Bitsy Spider. (Awesome hand motions.)
- Watch a soldier reading Prince Kai and the little Mermaid. (Fatigues hanging in the background of course!)
Even before we’d written a line of code, or designed a single screen of A Story Before Bed we knew that we would be giving the service away to deployed parents in the military. We understood how useful a service like this could be for families separated for months at a time. But nothing could prepare us for the very real impact these stories have had on the families that use the service.
We get e-mail all the time from families the service has touched. Hannah, a military spouse wrote in:
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you! We were very honored to receive the free books for deployed service members. My husband got to record a few the week before he left. When my two year old asks to see Daddy again, and I am at a loss for words, I am able to put a story on for her. This not only temporarily satisfies her, but also put a dozen smiles in my heart, being able to hear his voice. Thank you!”
Randall, a Captain in the military wrote:
“What a great thing you’re doing!!!! I read about 15 or more books to my son for my deployment to Iraq. He didn’t just watch them at bedtime, he used them to keep a conection with me while I was gone. KEEP IT UP!!!!!”
Naturally, our focus here is to build A Story Before Bed into a successful business. We’re essentially creating “Netflix” for children’s books. Of course we’re excited as can be about that mission. And while giving away free recordings doesn’t directly impact our bottom line in a positive fashion, it’s become clear to us that the small role A Story Before Bed is playing in connecting these families is absolutely critical and needs to continue. It gives us essential purpose every day when we come into work. In other words, just because we’ve given away 100,000 recordings doesn’t mean the need has gone away for the service.
So today, we’re super pleased to announce that we are extending our military giveaway program from 100,000 recordings to 250,000 recordings. And we need your help getting the word out.
Deployed and deploying miltary parents can head over to signup for kids books online from A Story Before Bed. Here’s the page to send people to – http://www.astorybeforebed.com/military. If you don’t mind, make sure to “like” the page and “fan” us on Facebook. For those of you recording stories make sure to share the recordings with your Facebook friends. And finally, for those of you who aren’t parents in the U.S. Military, we have very reasonable plans and pricing to use A Story Before Bed for you as well. Record some free kids books today for yourself to see how it works.