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Page-turning plan to bring Forces' families closer

Posted Tuesday 18 January 2011

Alison Baverstock, Course Leader for MA Publishing at KingstonMembers of the Armed Forces serving overseas and their families will be brought together to share the joy of reading through a new project developed by a Kingston University lecturer.

 During the scheme, called Reading Force, groups of family and friends of all ages in the Services community will commit to reading the same book and then record their responses in a single pre-printed scrapbook.  Comments may be in any form - letter, email, picture, drawing, story or text message.  Crucially, those away on tour will also be involved and will contribute, and each group will end up with a scrapbook documenting their reading journey, which is theirs to keep.  The idea is to help bring families and communities closer together through the shared experience of reading.  Details of the scheme will be sent to troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Organiser Alison Baverstock, author and Course Leader for MA Publishing at Kingston University, is herself a Forces wife and has had a lifelong devotion to the power of the book.  "When families are separated through overseas tours, it can be very hard to be involved in each others' lives," she said.  "I know from personal experience that when your husband rings up from Afghanistan or Iraq, you sometimes just don't know what to talk about.  Your existence can seem quite humdrum in comparison to theirs, so being able to talk about a book we're both reading is great because it gives us some common ground."

Endorsed by well-known children's and teenage authors - including Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Alan Gibbons and Lee Weatherly - the project encourages Forces families to start a conversation about what they have been reading.

Logo of Reading Force, the scheme designed to bring Forces families together through sharing books.  The scheme is being launched at Aldershot Garrison on March 5 2011, and the scrapbooks will be distributed through local schools, libraries and information centres.

Award-winning children's and young adult author Lee Weatherly said:  "I think Reading Force is a brilliant idea.  Sharing the experience of reading is such a great way for families and the wider community to feel connected - and getting to make a unique Reading Force scrapbook together just adds to the fun."

There will be a competition for the best and most creative scrapbooks, and prizes will include family tickets for Thorpe Park.

Former Kingston student Hattie Gordon is helping Alison Baverstock to run the scheme.  Hattie recently achieved her MA in Publishing from Kingston with a prize-winning dissertation called "Why boys don't read". 

Reading Force is supported by Kingston University, 145 Brigade, Hampshire County Council, Rushmoor Borough Council, Puffin and Waterstones.

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