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Reading Force launch at Colinton Primary School with VIP Vivian French

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On Wednesday 7th March Reading Force launched at Colinton Primary School, Edinburgh, with special guest author, Vivian French. Vivian has written 300 children’s books, including the The Cherry Pie Princess, the Knights in Training series, and most recently Robe of Skulls.To much excitement at the school, Vivian had been awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Scottish Book Trust the day before her visit to Colinton. In morning assembly Head Teacher Sonja Brown gave Vivian a special Colinton School certificate to recognise this prestigious award – and Vivian was really pleased!

collingtonviviancertificateAs well as giving the children an inspiring and fun day with a real-life author, the launch raised awareness of Reading Force, the shared reading charity for military families, and how children and families can get involved. Reading Force encourages families to share a book, even if they are separated due to deployments, in which case families can read over Skype or Facetime, or chat about the book in emails and text messages. Sharing books in this way helps keep family members close and bonded. Vivian had uncles in the Navy and Army, and her grandfather was in the Army, and as such she is a keen supporter of RF activity as a way for families to stay connected. “I just think the whole idea is a fantastic project.”

Military children from Dalmeny Primary School, St Marks Primary School, and Longstone Primary School, were bused to Colinton School so they could enjoy the day too. All children were given a book, signed by Vivian, and military children received a Reading Force scrapbook to take home to their family to fill with thoughts, notes and drawings about a shared book.

Members of the Scottish Parliament, Councilors and representatives from the Armed Forces community attended, and these VIP guests thoroughly enjoyed Vivian’s sessions, meeting staff and pupils as well as ingesting slices of Colinton’s celebratory cake!


Vivian held one session to younger children from nursery to P3, and another session to older children in P4 to P7. She told the children how she had become a children’s writer (this was later in her life as she was told at school she was no good at writing!), and inspiringly said every single one of them is an author. She guided the hall of children to conjure up their own story, asking what could happen next, and giving pointers on what makes a good story – ideas that Reading Force founder Dr Alison Baverstock thought were good for writers of any age, including her students at Kingston University!

Vivian’s tips on what makes a good story:

  • A feeling can be the starting point for a story – pick an emotion, an animal, and a problem
  • Stories have a shape – they don’t go in a straight line
  • Stories have a beginning, middle and end
  • You’ve got to keep your story moving so it isn’t boring
  • Send your characters on a journey – things can happen
  • Stories need things to go wrong – they will be boring otherwise
  • Stories need to end in a way that makes readers comfortable
  • Pull things from your imagination - Vivian says “Imagination is like an invisible dustbin inside your head – full of interesting information.”
  • Finally, Vivian’s top ten tips for aspiring authors: read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, and last but not least, read

Colinton children’s story:

Thcolintonblog2e main character is a tiger named Jeffrold. He is anxious because it is Monday – his pizza night, and his animal friends – sausage dog, monkey, and unicorn – have come over to join him for pizza, but the pizza has not been delivered! Jeffrold goes to the pizza shop to find out why it has not been delivered and the dinosaur who manages the pizza parlour says the pizza has been delivered. So Jeffrold has a mystery on his hands. He wonders if the pizza delivery creature ate it or if it has been delivered to the wrong house?! He walks home, and on the way home he spots pizza crumbs. He meets other animals on his journey and asks them if they ate the pizza – the pig says “oink”, and the armadillo snuffles and shrieks no. Jeffrold suspects the octopus, but octopus’ don’t like garlic pizza so he couldn’t have eaten Jeffrold’s pizza which was a garlic pizza…

Colinton children have been challenged and invited to write expanded versions of this story and send them to Vivian to read. Vivian will pick winning stories and we will publish them on this blog. We’re excited to read more of Jeffrold’s adventures!

Louise Hill, MOD Support Teacher, said of the event:

colintonblog3“With a high percentage of pupils from Armed Forces Families here, we are very aware of the many challenges these families face, including interruptions and disruptions to their learning and home life. Many of our pupils may go to several schools during the course of their education. Here at Colinton Primary School we work closely with different partners, as well as families and children themselves to help with anxiety and confidence issues, and continue to support children during difficult periods of transition, including Military Deployment.

Photo credit: Suzanne Heffron

It was fantastic to see how engaged the children were in this Reading Force event and so delighted with their gifted and personally signed books. Vivian was such a wonderful speaker and took great care to speak with each child before signing their books. A very successful event with great feedback so far from school staff and our invited guests. We look forward to encouraging the children to start completing their scrapbooks and use books and stories as a way to communicate and connect with family and friends. Our mission now is to build on the current excitement in school, open up our newly refurbished library and get everyone buzzing about books!” 

Annington generously supports Reading Force activity in Scotland. For more information about Reading Force go to

For enquiries about Reading Force activity in Scotland, contact RF Ambassador Fiona Maxwell: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photograph of author Vivian French and top photograph of Jessica Johnson, Maddison Blackhurst, Nathan Lycett and Josh Smith with author Vivian French, with Reading Force scrapbooks: photo credit Neil Hanna





Children's illustrator visits North Yorkshire schools

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Lynne-Chapman-in-class350x220Hello, I’m Annabel Hall, a Service Pupils' Champion in North Yorkshire. 

The autumn term got off to a great start with the visit of award winning illustrator, Lynne Chapman, and Reading Force staff to two of our schools in North Yorkshire, Alanbrooke Community Primary School and Dishforth Airfield Primary School.

Lynne kept the children riveted by her energetic and entertaining book readings and conducted drawing workshops to teach the children (and staff!) some basic skills in illustrating emotions - who would have thought that a few carefully positioned lines have such an impact in conveying the feeling of the characters!

Lynne’s forte is colourful illustrations of animals doing silly things and the children were enthralled and entertained by the stories and pictures.  Lynne also gave a workshop to an older age group and explained how she came to be an illustrator, what her typical day is like and the process of writing, illustrating and getting a book published. Children and adults all learnt something new during this creative and interesting day.

LynneChapman-JulieLyon-DishforthAirfieldSchool-350x262The majority of children in both schools are from Service families and there were lots of happy faces when all present took a new book and a scrapbook home with them.  Lynne stayed on after school to do a book signing and meet some of the mums and dads and answer questions. Thank you to Reading Force for coming to North Yorkshire- we had a great day!

Annabel Hall

Photo: Julie Lyon, Headteacher at Dishforth Airfield Primary School with Children's Illustrator, Lynne Chapman.

About Lynne: 



The Royal British Legion has awarded a grant to Reading Force so it can reach many more Service families and offer them Reading Force. The North Yorkshire schools events with Lynne Chapman was made possible from this grant. Read more about the Legion's support to Reading Force.




Three cheers for Reading Force!

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Susie-Buchanan-sharing-book380x360Books are an important part of family life for RAF mum and writer, Susie Buchanan. Susie says books have helped the family through some tough times, so when she heard about Reading Force she signed up for scrapbooks and books for her daughter and son. This is Susie’s blog about her family’s experience of doing Reading Force…

By Susie Buchanan

I came across a feature about Reading Force in Just for Families magazine and thought it was such a lovely idea to bring families closer together through the pleasure of reading. Whether you’re all at home or apart, having something we could discuss and share opinions on would be a pleasant distraction from the usual chaos of life.

I told my daughter about it and we looked at the recommended reads on the website. At 11 years old, Chloe is an avid reader and ‘swallows’ books in a matter of days. Reading has always been an important part of our family life. We’ve read to both our children since they were babies, finding it a wonderful time to relax and bond at the end of the day. Chloe mainly reads to herself now, so sharing books has become a thing of the past. Joining Reading Force has given us the opportunity to share a book together again, and it wasn’t until we started, that I realised just how much I’d missed it.

Being a dedicated animal lover, Chloe was drawn to Gill Lewis’ Moon Bear in the Young Readers 11+ section. We completed the 'Join today' form on the website, putting a little note in the comments section about which book she’d like to read - it was all so easy! We waited for the postman to deliver our eagerly anticipated parcel but didn’t have to wait long. Chloe was delighted when she opened the welcome letter, scrapbook and stickers along with a copy of Moon Bear. Let the reading begin!

The wonderful thing about Reading Force, is there is no set way of doing it, you do what suits your family. Due to the content of Moon Bear (it deals with the distressing subject of bile bear farming in South East Asia), we decided to share the book as mum and daughter, whilst her little brother and Dad shared a book from the 7-8 age group – Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face by John Dougherty. Snuggled up with blankets and pillows, we took it in turns to read aloud.

Susie-Buchanan-Moon-Bear150x230Here are Chloe’s thoughts on Moon Bear:

Moon Bear:  This book is about a boy who is forced to work on a bear bile farm for money, where he makes a special bond with a bear, who he promises to return to the wild. This book has inspired me to do something about bear bile farming when I am older. I loved this book so much I bought the whole book set. I would recommend this book for an older age group though as parts of this book are quite upsetting. (Chloe)

Chloe liked the Moon Bear facts at the end of the story and suggestions on where you can get more information on bear farming and what you can do to help.

The story alerted her to a distressing form of animal cruelty and at first, I was worried this would upset her, but instead it has inspired her to work with animals in the future to help make their lives better. She has gone on to read all of Gill Lewis’ books about animals which are equally inspiring.

Thank you, Reading Force, for providing the opportunity for some quality mum and daughter time and enabling Chloe’s love of reading to grow even further.

Photo: Susie Buchanan and her daughter, Chloe, aged 11


Reading Force Schools Ambassador Pam

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Ambassador Pam Marlborough Infants210x280Hello Reading Force families! I’m Pam, a proud and happy member of the Reading Force team and my role is Schools Ambassador.

My role is primarily to visit schools to talk to teachers, pastoral staff and parent groups about Reading Force and the support we can offer to Service families. So far this year I have visited schools in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire - where next, I wonder?

Visits to schools involve talking to a Headteacher, a Forces Liaison Officer or sometimes a SENCO who has been given school responsibility for work with Service families. I start by giving a bit of background on how Alison Baverstock came to found Reading Force, and move on to describe the ethos and aims of the scheme. This is very straightforward as everyone can understand how enjoyable it is for families to read together, share stories and poems and discover new books. The scrapbooks are key as they act as a permanent keepsake of a particular deployment or training exercise. In other words, by reading together each family can create its own special memories. Brilliant!

Teachers sometimes think of Reading Force as a process that has to be done in school time, but when I explain that the scrapbooks are intended for children to use at home, as a way of spending time as a family and staying close to the parent who is away, they begin to understand that our focus on family reading has real benefits for school achievement too.

I encourage schools to collect in the completed scrapbooks and send them to Reading Force to enter the bi-annual Scrapbook Competition, as it is not always easy for parents to get to a Post Office. This ensures that every child will then receive their certificate and free book for taking part, and will also have their scrapbook returned to them to keep.

Once a school has agreed to take part in Reading Force, we then talk about how best to launch the scrapbooks. Some schools are happy to do this themselves, maybe at a Parent’s Evening or special event such as World Book Day, whereas others invite me back to talk to parents about the scheme. This is great as I can answer any questions, promote local public libraries as a way of borrowing several copies of the same book, and explain the concept of the family reading group.

Some mums and dads think it all has to be very serious, but when I tell them that the group can involve their children’s friends, as well as family members in different areas of the country, they begin to see it as a much more fun and sociable activity. Parents also love the number of ways there are to read and chat together about a book: over the phone, Skype or Facetime, and then postcards, e-blueys, drawings and photos can be stuck in the scrapbooks.

Oh, and some schools do give form prizes or house points for the most original scrapbooks – why not check out if your school is registered to receive Reading Force scrapbooks for families and ask for your free scrapbook. If they are not yet registered, encourage them to get involved and get in touch. If your school has a significant number of Service children on roll, I may be able to visit. Please let us know and get in touch – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Happy reading everyone!

Pam Parish

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