One of the 30 charities we have proudly supported this year is Reading Force, which runs a shared reading initiative for Armed Forces families. We have been working in partnership since 2014 to encourage military families to read together – even when separated by deployment or training.

Our latest grant continues our support for Reading Force’s shared reading initiative, which has this year provided books and scrapbooks to 6,000 Armed Forces children. Besides promoting wellbeing, the initiative encourages children to share and chat about books with extended family – providing a means to keep in touch between phone calls and online messages. This has been particularly important this year, with the added separation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Reading Force is open to anyone with a military connection – whether they be a regular, reservist, veteran or extended family member. The project extends all over the world, with families often sharing books with friends and relatives over very long distances. The process creates memories – and shared scrapbooks – they can treasure forever.

Reading Force saw a surge in demand over the two lockdowns, with a 600% increase over usual numbers of requests during April to June. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the charity has supported over 6,000 Armed Forces children – providing a constructive activity during lockdown and enabling them to remain connected to loved ones. As one family commented: “Sharing this book has really cheered us up when we are unable to see people. It was nice to read something so positive and cheerful whilst we are feeling a bit sad and lonely.”

Reading Force founder, former Army (now veteran) wife Alison Baverstock, commented: “We are so proud of our relationship with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, which has long supported us. What we do is completely different to other charities – we seek to build wellbeing and resilience of the entire Armed Forces community through sharing books. As we approach our tenth anniversary, and find many new Army families are joining us, we are so pleased that you remain such an important part of our story.”

Our Chief of Staff, Brigadier (Ret’d) Robin Bacon, added: “We are delighted to continue our support for Reading Force – a wonderful charity that brings Forces families together through reading. By providing fun and engaging books the whole family can enjoy, Reading Force helps children to stay connected with loved ones while developing tools that are crucial to their development, wellbeing and future.”

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