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WASHINGTON — Diane Martin thinks that all parents should read to their children, even if they’re separated by thousands of miles.

So she’s offering servicemembers a free one-year membership to her new online company,, which allows customers to record themselves reading so their children can listen to a bedtime story from a familiar voice.

“When those parents are away, it’s a great way to stay in touch with them and read stories with them,” Martin said. “So I’d like to reach as many military families as I can.”

The company, launched in February, normally charges yearly subscriptions for families to upload their stories and play back the voice recordings.

Martin said she has wanted to start the online reading service for years, but technology has only recently caught up with her ideas.

Customers need a computer microphone and high-speed Internet access to record their voices, and the children need a fast computer and similar connection to listen to the playback.

Martin said it doesn’t matter what parents decide to read to their children, as long as they read something. The New Jersey resident is a former librarian who has been involved in several literacy efforts, and said the Internet has not been used enough to help children learn how to read.

The site features suggestions on what to read, as well as several prerecorded stories. She originally envisioned the site for parents who travel on business frequently and grandparents who live far from their grandchildren.

“But my daughters have several friends who have gone into the military,” she said. “If [this site] makes it easier for them to stay in touch with people at home, the happier I am.”

Martin and her husband also are launching another project,, which allows families to exchange voice mails online. That service is still being fine-tuned and is currently free for everyone.

She hopes to see military personnel using that to communicate with loved ones at home.

“With what they’re doing, I have no problem giving it away to our troops overseas,” she said.

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