About us

About 2024-04-23T19:58:06+00:00

“I think Reading Force is a great idea – a brilliant way of uniting families and sharing the joys of reading.”
Dame Jacqueline Wilson, award-winning author and former Children’s Laureate

At Reading Force, we are passionate about using books to bring Forces children and families closer together. Our shared reading initiative encourages families to read, talk, and scrapbook about a book, improving communication and enriching relationships with books and each other – one page at a time.

As an Army wife for nearly thirty years, and a mother of four children, I know all about the ups and downs of Forces life and the impact it can have on a Forces family. During training, active deployment, or when yet another move beckons – good communication is vital.

Over the years, when my husband was away, we would communicate through books. I would send him things I had read, he’d read them, and then we would talk on the phone about our reactions. And as the children got older we involved them too. Some good conversations resulted. Reading together created common ground and the opportunity to connect, and provided a welcome distraction from the stresses and strains of so many long separations.

In 2010 I had the idea of encouraging other Forces families to share books and talk about them, and to offer them special scrapbooks to fill up. This became Reading Force. Started in Aldershot in 2011, the scheme has grown in popularity ever since. With the help of our generous funders and supporters we can now offer Reading Force to all British Armed Forces, Reserves, Cadets, Veterans and ex-Forces (from divorce) children and families nationwide. We also welcome Service families who have sadly been bereaved.

We hope you will join in Reading Force and benefit the way we have – it is free to take part and a fun activity that all the family will enjoy, whether you are at home together or separated.

Best wishes

“Sharing books is one of the most wonderful experiences that a family can have…

…The scrapbooks offer a fantastic opportunity to explore books and share thoughts on them, however far away from each other the family group may be. I think this is a brilliant way of bringing together Forces families through the shared joy of reading books and I am pleased to be able to add my support to it.”
Anthony Browne, former Children’s Laureate

Message from Admiral Sir Tony Radakin KCB ADC, Chief of the Defence Staff

“Our servicemen and women make an extraordinary commitment to serve their nation. For the vast majority it is a career full of opportunity and reward. But serving at sea, or overseas, is never easy, either for the person away or those back home.

One of the things that mums, dads and grandparents in the Armed Forces miss most is reading bedtime stories, which is why the work of Reading Force to bring loved ones together through books, journals and related activities is so valuable.

Reading Force supports families of all kinds, including those that are separated, and it works with veterans too. In every case, reading improves literacy, boosts confidence and strengthens relationships.

I wish I’d had a Reading Force Scrapbook for my boys when I was serving overseas, so I am delighted that thousands of military families can benefit from the work of Reading Force today.”

“The military ethos is often just to get on with life. But there are also deep reserves of resilience and initiative within the military family, and the success of Reading Force is testament to what these strengths can achieve when they find a focus.

Even as the Armed Forces become more global in outlook and technological in nature, our continued ability to serve the nation remains rooted in the support we give to our people and their loved ones at home. I am acutely aware of the role the voluntary and charitable sector plays in this endeavour. Please pass on my best wishes to the team at Reading Force, especially those in the regions, for all that they do on behalf of the military family.”

Meet the Reading Force team

Prof. Alison Baverstock
Prof. Alison BaverstockFounder, Director & Trustee
A former publisher with strong interests in widening participation and reader development, Alison teaches MA Publishing at Kingston University and the author of many titles on the book business including ‘Is there a book in you?’ and ‘The Naked Author’.

Favourite children’s books: ‘A Little Princess’ (the first book to make her cry), ‘Paddington’, ‘The Railway Children’ and ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ stories.

Hattie Gordon
Hattie GordonEngagement Lead
Hattie’s background is in community arts. A published author, she has written for The Sunday Times, The Guardian, and Embroidery. Hattie liaises with Reading Force supporters, families, groups and schools, and manages press and publisher relationships.

Favourite children’s books: ‘Captain Pugwash’ (she wanted to be Tom the Cabin Boy), ‘Bog Baby’, ‘A Monster Calls’, ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’.

Angela Harris
Angela HarrisFundraising Manager
Angela has a background in Arts Management with a particular interest in storytelling and literature, and the positive impact they can have on the individual and community. She is excited to use her fundraising expertise to help support the work of Reading Force.

Favourite children’s books: ‘Little Women’ (inspired by one of the lead character’s love of reading and writing), ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘The Railway Children’.

Fiona Maxwell
Fiona MaxwellReading Force Ambassador-Scotland
During her 34 years as an Army wife, Fiona has been a Garrison Librarian, instructor at an Army Education Centre, and Patient Co-ordinator in a Glasgow Hospice. Fiona’s role is sponsored by Annington Ltd, and she visits schools and welfare settings in Scotland.

Favourite children’s books: ‘Peepo and Each Pear Plum’, Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ books (though her class teacher wouldn’t let the books in the classroom!).

Judith Burke
Judith BurkeReading Force Veteran’s Ambassador – England & Wales
Judith is an army veteran’s wife of 29 years and an army mum. She is delighted at this change of career after many years as a tax advisor. Judith has now moved to a new RF role to develop and provide our veterans’ support working with various organisations.

Favourite children’s books: ‘Little House On The Prairie’ (and would never have dreamt that years later she would live in the Mid West!), ‘The Borrowers’, ‘Winnie The Pooh’.

Nicola Hill
Nicola HillReading Force Book Club Ambassador
Nicola is an RAF wife and an experienced primary school teacher, specialising in the Early Years and Key Stage 1. She is excited to be a part of the Reading Force community, bringing her passion for inspiring a love of reading to all. Nicola supports our Book Club Coordinators, having enjoyed being a member of book clubs during various postings. Favourite children’s books: Ian Whybrow’s ‘Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs’, Ladybird’s ‘Puddle Lane’ series and Janet & Allan Ahlberg’s ‘Funnybones’ (who knew skeletons could be funny rather than scary?).
Lady Camille Campbell-Wild
Lady Camille Campbell-WildOffice Manager
Camille is an Army wife, mum of three and the ‘Go to Person’ in life. In her previous role in a primary school the children affectionately named her Lady C. Camille supports the team with her administrative wizardry and ensures the book requests we receive are processed so military families can get on with connecting and sharing stories.

Favourite children’s books:
So many fantastic reads but top ones would be any titles by Julia Donaldson, ‘Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy’ and of course ‘The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business’.

Laura Watson
Laura WatsonReading Force Ambassador-Northern Ireland
Laura is an RAF veteran’s wife and mum of three. She has spent the last 10 years overseas in a Community Support role, looking after military, spouses, and their children. After 17 years away, Laura is returning to Northern Ireland and is delighted to be the new RF Ambassador for Northern Ireland. She is looking forward to bringing her passion, dedication, and experience to helping and supporting both serving and veteran families. Favourite books: ‘Guess How Much I love you’, ‘Willbee the Bumblebee’ and any of Julia Donaldson’s books.

Meet our patrons

Sir Michael Morpurgo
Sir Michael MorpurgoAuthor and founder of the Children’s Laureate scheme
Michael Morpurgo is one of the UK’s most-loved authors and storytellers. Best known for War Horse and Private Peaceful, he was appointed Children’s Laureate in 2003, a post he helped to set up with Ted Hughes in 1999. He is passionate about storytelling and supports the core aim of Reading Force to keep families connected through sharing books.

Please click on the image to find out more about Sir Michael Morpurgo.

Meg Rosoff
Meg RosoffAuthor
Meg is the author of children’s and young adult books including How I Live Now, which was made into a film. She launched Reading Force at Wavell School in 2011 and returned to Wavell in 2021 to mark the charity’s tenth anniversary with pupils. She has won numerous awards including a Carnegie Medal and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Please click on the image to find out more about Meg Rosoff.

Mrs Amanda Rowley
Mrs Amanda RowleySchool Governor, The Wavell School, Aldershot
Amanda joined the Wavell School in January 2004 as deputy-head, and was headteacher from 2005 to 2023. A strong advocate for Forces children, in 2005 she was invited to sit on the Hampshire Admissions Forum to champion services children and helped instigate their place in the In-Year Fair Access protocol. She was an instrumental figure on the Reading Force steering committee the year it was piloted.
Dame Penelope Keith
Dame Penelope KeithActress
Actress Penelope Keith has a career spanning six decades. She has appeared on stage, in films, on television and radio. She was High Sheriff of Surrey in 2002-2003. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2014. RF’s founder trustee Nicholas Jones, of Strathmore Publishing, has been delighted to work with her several times, recording audiobooks.

Tom Palmer
Tom Palmer Author
Tom Palmer is an award-winning children’s author who has written books set in the British Army (Over the Line), Royal Navy (Arctic Star) and Royal Air Force (Spitfire). He works with the RAF Museum and the Imperial War Museum to get his facts right and – more importantly – with veterans whose testimony helps him get his facts right. Tom’s series Rugby Academy is about a school where most of the characters are service children. He works with Forces families to get those facts right, too.

Sally Gardner
Sally GardnerAuthor and Illustrator
Sally was badly bullied in school, even being nicknamed ‘Silly Sally’ on account of her then undiagnosed dyslexia. A word she still can’t spell. Formally diagnosed with severe dyslexia at the age of 12, she didn’t learn to read until she was 14, with the first book she read in full being ‘Wuthering Heights’. Sally went to art school at 16, then worked in theatre as a set and costume designer before turning to illustration and writing. She has written over 45 books for children and four for Adults, and has won both the Carnegie medal and the Costa Book Prize.

Meet the Reading Force Trustees

David Blunkett, Lord Blunkett of Brightside and Hillsborough
David Blunkett, Lord Blunkett of Brightside and HillsboroughTrustee
Lord David Blunkett was awarded a peerage in the dissolution Honours List in 2015. David was MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough 1987-2015, and a member of Tony Blair’s Cabinet for eight years from 1997. He is currently a Professor at the University of Sheffield, Chair of the Board of the University of Law, Chair of the Heathrow Implementation Steering Group and involved in a range of voluntary and charitable organisations locally and nationally. He is an avid supporter of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, and enjoys the countryside, reading and good food.
Nicholas Jones
Nicholas JonesTrustee
Founder & Director of Strathmore Publishing, Nicholas Jones grew up with teacher parents, surrounded by books, so publishing was a natural career after science at university. As Publisher for Thames Television he created both printed and audio tie-ins for fondly remembered series like Wind in the Willows, Rainbow and Button Moon. Since 1995, his own company Strathmore has recorded more than a thousand audiobooks ranging from Michael Palin’s Diaries to Horrid Henry.
Lindsey Taylor
Lindsey TaylorChair of Trustees
Lindsey has been a Trustee of Reading Force since 2014. She has spent the majority of her career in Human Resources primarily in the private sector and until recently in the public sector. She was a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service and a Naval wife for almost 10 years, and an Army wife for almost thirty years. Lindsey has two grown up daughters and an extended family that stretches as far as New Zealand. She lives with her husband and dogs in a small village in Somerset.
Lesley Titcomb CBE
Lesley Titcomb CBETrustee
Lesley is a Non-Executive Director of the National Bank of Kuwait International plc and of Legal & General Financial Advice and a trustee at StepChange, the debt advice charity. She is a Chartered Accountant and from 2015 to 2019 she was Chief Executive of The Pensions Regulator. She was awarded a CBE in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to pensions regulation. Her brothers were submariners in the Royal Navy, so she has some understanding of the challenges faced by service families.
Shahid Azeem
Shahid AzeemTrustee
Shahid Azeem is the MD of Arcom IT and Folio3 UK/Europe. He is passionate about the power of sport to integrate communities: he is the Chair of Aldershot Football Club and in 2014 he held a memorial ‘truce match’ between the British and German Army. Shahid led the sign up to the Military Corporate Covenant for every football club in the national league. He co-ordinated and led the twinning partnership between Aldershot Garrison and Rawalpindi Garrison, Pakistan. He launched and is Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust Mosaic Southeast Mentoring programme in schools and is about to embark on a second stint as High Sheriff for Surrey.
Caroline Flynn-MacLeod
Caroline Flynn-MacLeodTrustee
A marketing and public affairs executive who has worked in NATO, NGOs, and the public and private sector in Europe, Asia and Australia. Caroline co-founded a defence focused consultancy in 1999. Her career has been dedicated to working either for government alongside the military, or with defence companies supporting the military. A communicator, campaigner and fundraiser, she has founded and led organisations to represent complicated defence issues to the public. Books were a big part of her childhood and have travelled with her as she has moved around the world. Living overseas she always talked to family and friends about books they were reading.
Alison Hill
Alison HillTrustee
Alison has wide-ranging experience in publishing and communications. Currently at Ofcom, she previously spent four years with a Royal Navy charity. She set up and ran Rhythm & Muse in south-west London for ten years, a monthly showcase for poets and musicians, and was Kingston Libraries’ first Poet in Residence. More recently, Alison has pursued her research interest in the women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary, resulting in a poetry collection, Sisters in Spitfires, and a biography of their leader, Pauline Gower. Books have always mattered and she’s keen to support the power of shared reading.
Could this be you?
Could this be you?We're recruiting trustees
We are committed to resourcing Reading Force with a group of effective and committed trustees, and so ensuring that both the full and diverse range of our beneficiaries and supporters is represented and we can be effective in representing their needs. If you would like to be considered as a trustee, and have skills and interests to balance those of our existing board, please contact alison@readingforce.org.uk. Our board of trustees meets three times a year. A full range of our policies regarding safeguarding, risk prevention and conflict of interest is available on request.

General Sir Nicholas Carter KCB CBE DSO ADC, former Chief of the Defence Staff, supports Reading Force

“Reading Force is an excellent scheme and I am very happy to lend my support.

The idea behind Reading Force is simple. Service families under pressure often find it difficult to communicate. It is often challenging to explain what you are up to, when you are deployed in demanding circumstances, several thousand miles from home. And it is equally difficult to understand the perspective of those at home, whose life might seem mundane, but who have to shoulder the burden of living alone and the uncertainty of not knowing what deployment involves.

No amount of telephone calls can ever close that gap, so making the connection through informal reading groups, sharing feedback through the vehicle of a Reading Force scrapbook and using it as a basis for communication is a tremendous idea. I wish it had been around to support the many deployments my family has experienced in my career. I wholeheartedly commend the idea to you.”

Soldiering On Awards Finalist 2019

We’re very proud that Reading Force has been chosen as a finalist in the ‘Family Values’ category of Soldiering On Awards 2019. We are very grateful to our sponsor, Annington Ltd, for nominating us. The Soldiering On Awards recognise the outstanding achievements of those who have served their country, and the diverse people and groups who work together in support of the Armed Forces Community.

Find out more

“As HM Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire I am delighted to support the charity Reading Force and the amazing work it does on behalf of our Service families. Hampshire has one of the biggest concentrations of Service families in the UK and I understand the importance of bringing forces children and families closer together especially when one of the family is away on active service. Reading Force helps hugely with this and I commend their website to you. It is very easy to navigate around and has some terrific content.”

Nigel Atkinson, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire