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Extra books for families affected by Syrian air strikes

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EdmondsDad Skype200x150The vote in favour of air strikes against Syria had an immediate impact on one group of people: those charged with doing the striking. And while our first thoughts may be of aircrews required to carry out what has been voted for, and the wide range of people who support them such as ground crews, we know that the families of all military personnel involved in the campaign to defeat IS are immediately impacted too.

Of course all potentially involved will have been on a high state of alert for weeks now, and that’s part of their role. In the run up to the beginning of any operation, Forces families prepare for a variety of outcomes.

While everyone capable of understanding what is going on can be prepared (although the decision on when and what to tell the children can be difficult) it can be really hard to talk about what’s really going on: it’s common for the issues that are dominating everyone’s thoughts to remain largely undiscussed. Will we be going to war or not? And if so, how soon will the deployment take place? Once the deployment does take place, family members at home do their very best to keep everything going as normally as possible and adjust to a loved one and parent being deployed.

Blog Syria air strikes LeoWillWeatherallCoverThat’s where Reading Force comes in. Reading Force is a way of creating common ground between Forces family members, encouraging them to share books at times when it can be hard to talk about the realities and when children and partners are missing their loved one who is deployed. LeoWillQuote 250x170

Families are encouraged to share a book, talk about it, and pool their thoughts about the book in a special scrapbook that we provide. Reading Force is for all members of the family, even when separated by deployment, so the person away from home can also take part. They can take a copy of the book with them, or be read to over Skype or FaceTime by their children.

Reading Force has been found to be particularly useful during times of stress as a way of staying connected. Some families start doing Reading Force and begin to fill their scrapbook before the deployment begins, and then carry on once their parent is away on deployment.

Selection of books200x150Reading Force is for all British service families in all circumstances. We are particularly keen to support Service families affected by the Syrian air strikes. Please email us and request a free Reading Force scrapbook and we will send you two copies of a free book. Tell us the ages of your children and we will seek to send an age-appropriate title that all will enjoy. One book can be taken by the Service person about to deploy, and a second kept at home with the family. Then you can all read the book and talk, text, email or Skype about what you think of it – families have told us this is really useful when it can be hard to know how to start a conversation.

‘The memories of doing this scrapbook together will always be with us and when we were having a bad day or not a lot of time we would have five minutes doing this scrapbook and we all felt better.’ The Warren Family

Feedback from families who have taken part in Reading Force has been that the scheme really helped families maintain communication when it felt all the certainties in life were being swept away. Send for your FREE pack – and two free books – today. Use this link to contact us or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Cracking reads for the countdown to Christmas!

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Christmas books200x150Now is the time to take out Christmas books from the library or dig out the ones you put away with the Christmas decorations last year – or treat the family to a new book. There are so many fantastic Christmas stories to get the family in the festive mood, and these are a few favourites from the Reading Force team.

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler Age 3+
Stick Man is trying to get back to his family tree in time for Christmas, but many mishaps stop him having a smooth journey home. Poor Stick Man is picked up by a dog, thrown in the river – will he ever get back to the family tree?

Jolly Christmas Postman130x114The Jolly Christmas Postman by Allan and Janet Ahlberg Age 3+
It’s Christmas Eve and the Jolly Postman is delivering cards to favourite nursery rhyme and fairy-tale characters, including a get-well card for Humpty Dumpty, a game called ‘Beware’ for Little Red Riding Hood from Mr Wolf! The pictures are packed with wonderful details and the book is interactive – the cards can be taken out of their envelopes, which makes this a delightful read appealing to children aged 3+ up to adults.

The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis and illustrated by Emma Cobb Age 4+
It’s Christmas Eve and twins Sam and Charlie are worried because Charlie has been naughty all year. Will Charlie wake up to an empty stocking on Christmas morning? Father Christmas does make an appearance, as does his good-bad-o-meter. A wonderfully funny and heart-warming tale with an unpredictable twist. 

Christmas Story130x166A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith Age 5+
The story of the nativity seen through the eyes of a little girl and a baby donkey who journey to Bethlehem. Captures the wonder of the birth of Jesus from a child’s point of view. Stunningly illustrated (with gold illuminations) by Wildsmith, this is suitable to be read to children aged 5+ and for older children to enjoy too. 

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg Age 3+
An atmospheric and magical Christmas tale that touches children and adults alike. A young boy recalls ‘On Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly on my bed.’ He then boards a mysterious train waiting for him and goes to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus. It would spoil the book to say more! With beautiful illustrations this is a great book to read on Christmas Eve. 3+ (a good book for children of all ages – older children can read this on their own).

The Snowman130x160The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
A gem of a book with no words, but beautiful pictures telling the magical tale of a boy who builds a snowman that comes to life. The boy shows the snowman around his house, then together they fly through the night sky to visit Father Christmas. This is lovely to read to young children and for children to look at on their own.

How the Grinch stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss Age 4-8 (and adults!)
The Grinch lives in a cave on the side of a mountain and has no Christmas spirit, and worse still, he wants to steal Christmas from the citizens of Who-Ville so nobody else can have it! With hilarious rhymes, word play (ever had a ‘fuzzle’ for Christmas?!) and quirky illustrations, this book has been a Christmas favourite since it was first published in 1957.

Horrid Henry’s Christmas Cracker by Francesca Simon Age 5+
Four Christmas stories for fans of Henry’s mayhem – he sabotages the school play, tries to ambush Father Christmas, attempts to do his Christmas shopping without any money, and has Christmas dinner with the guests from hell. Laugh out loud funny.

Boy called-Christmas130x202A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig and Chris Mould Age 7+
Have you ever wondered what Father Christmas was like as a boy? Matt Haig’s son did and inspired his dad to write this book. A tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, and a boy who isn’t afraid to believe in magic. This title has just been released and is set to become a Christmas classic. Matt Haig was the winner of the Blue Peter Book Award and Smarties Book Prize.

We’d love to hear what your favourite Christmas books are. If you send us a review of one of your best Christmas books using this link (it could be one of the above titles) we’ll post it on the Reading Force Facebook page before Christmas.

Happy Christmas from the Reading Force team!

Alison, Elaine and Hattie




Need inspiration to choose a new book?

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RRJan2016 ChoosingBookNeed some inspiration to choose a new book from the library or bookshop? We’ve picked a handful of books we think you’ll love.
The Lie Tree, for teens and young adults, is the first children’s book to win the prestigious Costa Book of the Year Award since 2002 – for good reason! This Victorian murder mystery will grip readers of all ages. Jacqueline Wilson has a new not to be missed book – The Butterfly Club, about Tina, one of three triplets, heart-warming and engaging as ever. If it’s fast-paced action and adventure you’re after there’s the extraordinarily funny and original Time Travelling with a Hamster and Hamish and the Worldstoppers. We’re so spoilt for choice when it comes to picture books and we’ve found three wonderful tales, Blue and Bertie featuring Blue the giraffe, Gruffalo creator Julia Donaldson’s Sugarlump and the Unicorn which is about being careful what you wish for, and finally The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head, is an endearing and useful story for children experiencing moving home. Read on to discover more…

RRJan16 SugarlumpUnicorn120x120Sugarlump and the Unicorn by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks Age 3+
Sugarlump is a rocking horse. He is happy when the children are at home and he can rock them back and forth, but when they are at school, Sugarlump is bored. Then a magical unicorn with a silver horn and sparkling eyes turns him into a real horse. But after galloping around a racetrack, trotting around a farm, and dancing at the circus he realises how much he misses the children he left behind. Luckily the unicorn has one more wish to grant…

Blue and Bertie  by Kristyna Litten Age 3+ RRJan16 BlueBertie130x117
Lovely and funny book, also with a strong message that different is good!
Bertie the giraffe is happy to spend his days with his herd. Then one day he oversleeps and finds himself alone. Lost, he is frightened until he meets Blue, who reassures him and shows him new parts of the jungle before taking him home. Bertie invites Blue to join his herd, but Blue is worried the other giraffes won’t like him. In fact, he fits in perfectly.

RRJan16 ParrotHead101x130The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head by Daisy Hirst Age 5+
This is an endearing story about moving house, making new friends and playing imaginative games.
When Simon moves house, Isobel thinks she has lost her best friend forever. She is cross and lonely and decides it’s better to be by herself. But after a while something happens that leads her to make a brilliant new friend…

RRJan16 Dragonsitter110x168The Dragonsitter to the Rescue by Josh Lacey and Garry Parsons Age 7+
Chaotic, inventive, fast-paced, and lots of fun.
The Smith-Pickles family are baby-sitting Uncle Morton’s dragons. Eddie and his Dad take two of them on a half-term trip to London. Cue disaster – especially when one of the dragons escapes in the Natural History Museum. The story is told via emails from Eddie to his Uncle Morton.

Hamish and the Worldstoppers by Danny Wallace Age 8+ RRJan16 HamishWordstoppers110x167
Fast moving laugh out loud sci-fi adventure.
Hamish lives in Britain’s fourth-most boring town but life gets exciting when one day Hamish realises the whole world has stopped. Planes, cars, people, everything – except him! The Worldstoppers and their horrible friends the Terribles have a plan. Can Hamish save the world from the Worldstoppers?

RRJan16 TimeTravellingHamster110x168Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Wexford Age 9+
A very funny action adventure with family relationships (particularly male ones) at its heart.
Chaudhury’s dad is dead. He was a physicist and had been experimenting with time travel and, realising what was going to happen, left instructions enabling his son – Chaudhury – to go back in time and prevent the childhood accident that will ultimately kill him.

RRJan16 ButterflyClub110x170The Butterfly Club by Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt
Age 9+
A heart-warming and engaging new story about the importance of family and friends.
Tina is the youngest and smallest of the triplets. She and her sisters Phil and Maddie have always done everything together, but at junior school the teacher separates them and Tina has to learn to manage on her own. Can she do it, especially when she has to sit next to ferocious Selma? With some help from butterflies Tina finds out she’s stronger than she ever thought.

Echo Come Home
by Megan Rix
Age 10+ RRJan16 EchoComeHome110x169
A gripping story with an emphasis on the unconditional love and loyalty dogs give to people.
Echo is a stray living on the streets, though smart enough to know all the best spots for free food. When animal rescue catch him he is trained as a hearing dog, and forms a special relationship with Jake, a young boy with severe hearing loss.

RRJan16 AnyoneButIvyPocket110x136Anyone but Ivy by Caleb Krisp and John Kelly Age 10+
This is a funny and exciting Victorian mystery thrilling enough to make you jump.
Ivy is a junior Lady’s maid, until she is sacked after dunking her employer’s head into a bowl of punch. Stranded in Paris, she agrees to take a precious jewel to England. She is soon plunged into danger and adventure.

RRJan16 TheLieTree120x181The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge Age 13+
This Victorian murder mystery will grip readers of all ages. Winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2015 – for good reason!When Faith’s father dies suddenly she knows she must try to find out what he was hiding in the local caves she had visited with him. She discovers the Lie Tree which thrives off hearing lies and, in turn, reveals long hidden secrets. Faith uncovers a web of secrets and mysteries that will change her forever. Faith is a feisty heroine and this is a thrilling read.

We’d love to hear what your favourite books are.
If you send us a review of one of your books using this link (it could be one of the above titles) we’ll post it on the Reading Force website and Facebook page.

Happy reading! 


Reading Across the World - Miriam Moss

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StorySession3 250x190The Reading Force team asked me if I’d be available to work with forces children at Hornbill School in Brunei in March this year. As a forces child myself, I was delighted to hear more about Reading Force; how it encourages families to read together, talk about books and fill in scrapbooks about the books they’ve shared. Families do this together at home and when a parent is away on deployment or exercise.

After our 16-hour flight to Brunei, we - Alison Baverstock and Elaine Boorman from Reading Force and I - were met at the airport and whisked off to our hotel by Terri Turton, the trip’s organiser at Hornbill School. The next day she returned to take us on a boat trip. We visited the floating village in Bandar and searched up river in mangrove swamps for crocodiles and proboscis monkeys. Tom Palmer, the other UK-based author, flew in that evening.

Hornbill School (OFSTED outstanding) is in the centre of the HQ Brunei Garrison community, BFPO 11. It caters for a wonderful mix of children, as it is the result of a very successful merger in 2003 of the Seria Service Children’s School and the Gurkha Children’s English School. While we were visiting, many of the fathers were away on exercise in Kenya.

The school day at Hornbill starts early and finishes at 1.30pm before it gets too hot. Teapot 160x178So we were collected at 7am each morning, and driven past white egrets hunting for frogs on grass verges, past the teapot roundabout, to Hornbill School.

On the first day, we were greeted royally by being given a bindi and a Nepalese silk scarf, and entertained by a wonderful drumming session. WelcomePeaceGarden 450x162Then we were shown round the stunning school grounds which included the ‘Peace Garden’ full of palm trees, cloud-shaped bougainvillea and frangipani bushes. 

My role as a picture book author was to inspire the children from Nursery to Year 2 with interactive reading sessions including songs and roleplay, and writing workshops.

Miriam Hornbill Childdrawing 200x151

Miriam Hornbill BareBear 200x150

In this class, the children drew their own story, following the pattern in my Bare Bear story that we had just shared.

In another class I shared a story about Billy Bear and his favourite toy rabbit. As you can see, on that day the teachers and children were all dressed up as characters from books! After the story the children designed their own rabbits.

Miriam Hornbill makingRabbits 625x243 







Miriam Hornbill JungleSong 300x195I finished the week with a percussion extravaganza in the hall with the whole of Year 2, based around my book Junglesong
Miriam Hornbill Childrenreading 200x150

By the end of the week, every child in the school had had two sessions with either Tom Palmer or me, and had also been given one of our books by Reading Force. Here are some children reading Doctor Molly’s Magic Medicine Case

GroupWelcomeSign 280x194


My days at Hornbill were both full and colourful, and I had an amazing time working with all the wonderful children and the warm, dedicated staff.

Thank you so much for asking me to come with you Reading Force!

Miriam Moss

Miriam Moss is an award winning author of over 75 books, including 30 picture books, poetry and short stories, with wide experience of working creatively with children and adults throughout the UK and abroad. Miriam's latest picture book is 'Doctor Molly’s Medicine Case' (Walker Books).

Picture above: Miriam Moss (far right) standing next to Alison Baverstock (Reading Force founder), RF team member Elaine Boorman, and children's author, Tom Palmer.


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