Thousands of families preparing for Christmas with parent away

Thousands of Forces families are preparing for Christmas with a parent deployed away from home. But the charity, Reading Force, aims to help 1,000 military families stay closer this Christmas holiday by giving children and deployed parents stories to share.

14/01/2011 - Aldershot, Hampshire. Stock photography to provide images for Reading Force initiative supported by the Commander 145 Bde and Kingston University. The project is a joint venture and is headed by Mrs Baverstock, wife of the brigade Commander, 145 Brigade and intends to encourage Army families to encourage reading amongst their children and other service families. The Reading Force initiative is support by several schools in the Aldershot area and the program should go live in April 2011. Central to the idea is the formation of local book reading groups which will discuss the books they have read and complete scrapbooks about the books. The images will be used in advertising material from the scheme. NB: Model release forms held for all children and adults involved in the photoshoot. Seen here; Joshua Harrison and his mum, Major Rebecca Harrison, ETS, read a pirate book for the Aldershot led Reading Force initative.

The Ministry of Defence estimates 11,000 Service personnel will be deployed over the Christmas period, meaning many families will be separated (1). Serving personnel will be continuing the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, taking part in UN peacekeeping activity in South Sudan and maintaining a reassuring presence in the Falklands, to mention just a few key missions this December.

The charity Reading Force aims to help families keep close by giving children stories to read and talk about with their absent parent during phone and video calls that can otherwise feel awkward.

The charity is inviting Forces families to request books and spread the word to the wider community to encourage donations to help the charity continue its work keeping families close and connected. You can donate at

Alison Baverstock, Army wife for nearly 30 years, mother of four, and founder of Reading Force, said: “I know from my own experience what it feels like to say goodbye to a partner and parent who’s in the Forces, especially when you know they’ll be away for special events such as Christmas and birthdays.

“Precious calls home can become high pressure with everyone wanting them to be loving and positive. Children – and many adults – can clam up. But sharing what you’ve been reading and what you all thought about the book is a really simple and effective way to break the ice and get conversations flowing. Stories often provide great opportunities for fun and being silly together and that can help soothe the sense of separation.

“Stay close and connected and join Reading Force this Christmas by requesting a book and scrapbook for your children, or, if you feel able, make a donation.”

Forces families face many challenges including frequent moves of home and school, children having to say goodbye to friends and extended family, as well as the emotional strain of having a parent working in a war zone.

Sian La-Borde, 36, and daughter, Amelie, 4, live in Stafford and are preparing for their first Christmas since Amelie was born without husband and father, Ryan. Ryan is on a four-month deployment to the Falklands. He works in supply logistics for the RAF.

Sian said: “Amelie is a real daddy’s girl and while she’s used to Ryan being away for short periods of time, this longer stint has been much more of an emotional rollercoaster. She has been very clingy with me and she’s been poorly recently and keeps waking up in the night crying for daddy. The closer we get to Christmas – and her birthday – the more she misses him.

“Amelie loves reading and so the idea of sharing stories and thoughts about stories with daddy over Facetime is brilliant for us. We usually get three 10-minute calls a week but factor in the time difference and the attention span of a three-year-old and Ryan can easily spend the whole call looking at the back of Amelie’s head if she’s tired and not particularly engaged.

“We plan to use the Reading Force story and scrapbook to give her and Ryan something special to share this Christmas. And we can’t wait for him to come home in January!”

Reading Force aims to help at least 1,000 Forces families separated this Christmas via a Crowdfunder campaign to raise £4,000. This would allow the charity to post out story books and colourful scrapbooks for children and their whole family to get involved with by sharing thoughts, notes, letters, drawings and photographs. The shared nature of the scrapbook activities help families feel close even after phone and video calls have ended. The scrapbooks often become precious family mementos.

If you would like to help Forces families stay closer this Christmas, you can donate at Just £4 ensures a Forces family receives a story book and scrapbook to share with their loved ones. 

For more information including case study stories and images, contact Jenny Legg at or 07725 619304.


Notes to Editors: 

  1. Estimated figure provided by MOD.

About Reading Force:

  • Reading Force is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Registered Charity No. 1159890. Member of Cobseo
  • It was set up in 2010 by author, publisher, lecturer and soldier’s wife of 30 years, Dr Alison Baverstock
  • The initiative is free of charge and it’s available to ALL British military families, Army, Navy & Marines, and RAF, including Reservists and Veterans. They can take part as many times as they like.
  • As well as free books, families are provided with a scrapbook to fill with thoughts, photographs and drawings about the book they’re reading together, and they can enter it into a competition
  • The National Literacy Trust reports that children who own a book are 15 times more likely to read above the level expected for their age than their peers who don’t have their own books
  • Shared reading is also proven to deliver a positive impact on a family’s social, emotional and mental wellbeing. It encourages more parents to be reading role models for their children, strengthens English as a second language and supports children’s empathy and friendships
  • To donate, please visit
  • Organisations such as schools, nurseries and community groups can help raise awareness of Reading Force by displaying posters, distributing information flyers, and keeping stock of resources. Find out more at
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