READING Force, the shared reading initiative for Service families in the UK and overseas, has become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Founded by Dr Alison Baverstock, academic and Service wife for nearly 30 years, Reading Force was piloted in Aldershot in 2010 with shoestring funding from Rushmoor Borough Council, Hampshire County Council and Kingston University.

It proved to be a successful way of keeping family members in touch when separated by deployments and quickly grew to become available to Service families nationally, at home or away.

Families who take part in Reading Force are encouraged to read the same book, talk about it and complete a free scrapbook with thoughts about the book. Anything can go into the scrapbook – photographs, emails, text messages, drawings, notes and writing.

Whether families are together at home or separated by deployments and training, taking part in Reading Force helps improve communication, keeps family members close, and helps mitigate the specific stresses of Service family life.

Dr Baverstock commented: “We are delighted and proud to have been awarded charitable status and see this as confirmation of both the value of the scheme and the way we have been managing its development. It’s particularly affirming that this has come less than five years after beginning our work.”

As a not-for-profit organisation with the purpose of improving Service family welfare by enhancing communication through shared reading, Reading Force sought charitable status in order to:

  • Work alongside existing Service charities
  • Benefit from and draw on the public service skills and experience of a carefully selected board of trustees
  • Ensure all funds are directly used for the initiative, to comply with the best practice regulations for public benefit.

One Army mother said: “When we received our Reading Force scrapbook we thought it was a great opportunity to get together as a family and share a book.

“Annabelle was very excited about it and we spread it out over a few weekends when Daddy was working away and he joined in using FaceTime which made it really special.

In order to become a charity, one of the requirements was to establish a board of trustees which includes Gisela Stuart, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and a member of the Defence Select Committee; Andrew Lloyd, chief executive of Rushmoor Borough Council; Nicholas Jones, MD of Strathmore Publishing; Jennifer Titterton, ex-head teacher and campaigner for literacy; Lindsey Taylor, Service wife and head of HR at Alterian. Trustees will help plan the strategic future of Reading Force and make policy decisions for the organisation.

Reading Force’s charitable objectives honour the Armed Forces Covenant and its obligation to the welfare of Service families, serving and veterans, in respect of the unique sacrifices that Service families make.

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