Legion grant helps families connect through shared reading

A grant from The Royal British Legion to charity Reading Force will help bring military families together through shared reading.

When parents are away on deployment it can be difficult to keep families talking.  That’s where the charity Reading Force comes in.

Bringing Forces families together through stories

Reading Force helps bring families closer through the sharing of books, whether parents are at home or away. From babies to grandparents, all the family can join in and connect through reading together.

Only 17% of parents of kids aged 9–11 read aloud to their children. Yet 83% of kids aged 6–17 say being read to is something they either loved or liked a lot. Kids & Family Reading Report, Scholastic, 2015

Each family starts with a free special scrapbook and book to start their shared reading journey, so they can fill out the scrap book as they read the book together.

If mum or dad is away from home, they can read with their children over Skype or FaceTime. Even if contact is not possible they can take a copy of the book their children are reading with them. It’s comforting to know loved ones are reading the same story and can talk about it when reunited.

Dr. Alison Baverstock (left), Founder and Director of Reading Force, with a Forces family.

Reading for pleasure with family members has been linked to benefits in children’s educational outcomes and emotional wellbeing, Reading Force’s impact goes beyond the simple enjoyment of a good book.

“The main thing we will remember is the fun time we had together and the children have realised they can share stories with their Daddy over the phone.”

“It can also be difficult for forces families to talk about issues that are large in their lives,” says Dr Alison Baverstock, Founder and Director of Reading Force, “because there’s often blame is associated. If you’re feeling tense about another move due to your parent’s job, it can be tempting to blame the person who’s making you move.

“Reading Force lets forces families connect through shared reading.” Dr Alison Baverstock, Founder and Director of Reading Force

“You can end up with awkward silences and non-communication and that can be very difficult for children to manage because they’re feeling frustrated and feeling cross and don’t know how to express that.

“Reading Force tackles this by letting families connect through shared reading. Reading the same book creates common ground for them to talk about.

“I’m always keen that people choose something that they want to read, but it doesn’t have to a book that you’ll all like. When my son did it he chose a book that the family didn’t particularly enjoy, but it prompted really good discussions. The point is that it should be a book that’s fun, that everyone’s willing to read, and that you can talk about.”

Working together in partnership

The Legion is excited to support the work of Reading Force, and has provided a grant to help Reading Force reach another 1,250 children and parents across the country.

“This funding will enable Reading Force to continue to provide its unique offering in support of the Armed Forces community, helping family members – whether young or old, or based in the UK or overseas – stay in touch through sharing books and stories,” says Daniel Elser, Head of Grants & Social Policy for the Legion. “Reading Force’s ambition to keep families connected is one that we share, and we’re excited to work together on this initiative.”

“Reading Force has very much helped my children get through this very long deployment, so thank you very much.”

With the grant of over £30,000, the charity will launch the project in Legion branches, and reach many more Forces families and their extended family members, helping families to stay close and connected whether they’re facing tours of duty, training postings, and moves of home.

“This grant enables us to plan further ahead, to reach more families, to go into more schools, and to do more of what we’re doing well,” says Dr. Baverstock.

Reading Force has given over 7,000 books to Forces children, from babies to young adults, and given over 70,000 scrapbooks to families.

Get involved today – it’s fun, free, and easy!

Reading Force is free for serving, ex-serving and reservist families in all circumstances, whether at home together or separated. Pick up your scrapbook from your local Royal British Legion branch, HIVE, or school, or request one at www.readingforce.org.uk.

Scrapbooks come with a free book voucher postcard, simply fill in and send off to receive your free book.