Photo courtesy of the Aldershot News.
One military family’s experience of the lasting power of shared reading is the inspiration behind this small but highly effective charity.
Children struggling to understand why a parent is absent, often internalize their emotions rendering them virtually silent during the all-important call home. Through providing free books, Reading Force gives families a starting point for a conversation. Chats which begin about thoughts on a shared book lead to other topics, making these calls fun, informative and of real emotional value. By nurturing that feeling of connectedness, children are happier and parents worry less because they have had a meaningful conversation with their youngsters.
In 2017, Annington's agreed to support the charity with donations totalling £75,000 over three years. The funding allowed the charity to recruit their very first Ambassador for Scotland, ex Army wife Fiona Maxwell. In November 2019 Annington made the second of two additional donations of £25,000 to help the charity with core costs and we proudly supported Reading Force's entry into the 2019 Soldiering On awards which eventually saw them named as a finalist in the Family Values category. The accolades continued in 2019 when the work of the charity, and specifically its founder, Dr Alison Baverstock, were recognised by PM Teresa May. On June 28th 2019, the eve of Armed Forces Day, Alison was made the recipient of the Prime Minister's Point of Light Award, a considerable accolade for this small charity. The Awards are made to outstanding individual volunteers who are making significant changes in their community and in a personal letter to Alison, the Prime Minister said:
"Through ‘Reading Force’ you are bringing together families and bridging the gap of separation with the magic of stories. You know from your own family life how important the shared love of reading is and, as we mark Armed Forces Day, you should feel very proud of the support you are giving to those making great sacrifices in the service of our country.”
2020 saw a huge increase in the number of families wishing to take part in the initiative. During the first 11 weeks of Lockdown, the charity despatched 2,780 books - as many as it had sent out in the whole of 2019. The year ended with the charity having distributed over 6,000 books - with the vast majority going to families new to Reading Force.
The additional costs placed a considerable strain on the charity and so Annington's Charity Committee agreed to provide an additional £15,000 of funding. In addition, to help Reading Force plan for the future, the Charity Committee agreed to continue to support the charity through to 2022.