1213. Alison Baverstock
Dr Alison Baverstock, from Kingston Upon Thames, is the founder of ‘Reading Force’, which brings together Armed Forces families, separated by service, through a love of books.
Since 2011, ‘Reading Force’ has distributed over 8,000 books to the children of serving Armed Forces members, encouraging children and parents to read the same books to then talk about on phone calls home. Alison was inspired to set up the charity after seeing how books helped unite her own family. Even when her husband was thousands of miles away on operations, Alison’s four young children could connect with their dad by talking about the book they were reading at the time, using reading as a conversation starter and also as a way of providing a welcome distraction from the stress and strain of long separations. Alison has grown ‘Reading Force’ across the UK to reach children from all three services, as well as in overseas bases and the children of veterans, cadets and reserves. The charity has also given out over 120,000 scrapbooks to children worldwide to help encourage children to form memories based on their shared reading with their families to strengthen bonds and deal with separation anxiety.
In a personal letter to Alison, Prime Minister Theresa May 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.”
“Running Reading Force has given our team the opportunity to highlight the specific situation of Forces families, both the value we bring to our communities and the support that will help us flourish. Shared-reading is a great way to communicate, to keep in each others’ minds when separated by training, deployment or just facing more change. We hope this award will encourage even more people to get involved – whether or not they are part of the Forces community. It’s a real honour to be chosen and I thank the PM and selection committee warmly.”
Picture: Alison at a Reading Force roadshow in Aldershot with an Army dad and daughter (credit: Aldershot News)