READING Force founder Alison Baverstock has been honoured by a national award scheme which recognises the roles of volunteers who make a difference to society.
Alison’s Point of Light award, which is administered by the Prime Minister’s office in collaboration with the Department for Culture Media and Sport, acknowledges her role in setting up and running the shared reading initiative which sees forces families share a book and talk about it, at home or over Skype or FaceTime if separated due to deployments and training.
Reading Force was piloted in Aldershot in 2011 with the addition of a scrapbook which families could fill with their thoughts about the book shared. The pilot was a success and it has expanded to become a national charity, supporting tri-service military families, ex-forces families, cadets and reservists throughout the UK and posted overseas.
Alison said: “I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of the team that manages and delivers Reading Force. Forces families tend to be out of the limelight; we excel at just getting on with it and so for the Prime Minister to acknowledge both our efforts and the people we support is a really precious thing.”
A publisher, writer, academic, Alison has been linked with the forces for nearly 40 years. She became an army wife in her 20s, brought up four children with her soldier husband who served for 35 years, and is now the wife of a veteran.
Through the years of managing a peripatetic military life and long periods during which her husband was deployed, Alison found sharing and talking about books helped them overcome the distance. She then asked her children to share books with him, talking about them over the phone when he was deployed, initially on training and in Northern Ireland and later in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Alison had the simple but effective brainwave that all military families could employ the same system, using books to keep children communicating well and connected to their deployed parents – and keep the parents far away from home involved in family life.
To date, working with schools, other military charities and organisations, the charity has distributed more than 120,000 scrapbooks to forces children and posted books to share to in excess of 8,000 youngsters to encourage them to read together.