IT’S a tough life for military families who are separated for months on end while they serve and protect our country in foreign lands.
But a reading scheme launched on HMS Warrior in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard promises to bring together children and parents by sharing books across the miles.
Youngsters from Milton Park Primary attended the event celebrating Reading Force, which encourages families to compile scrapbooks about good reads the whole family is getting stuck into.
The pupils were joined by high-ranking members of the armed forces and children’s author Sara Starbuck, who spoke about their passion for books.
Commodore Tony Radakin, commander of Portsmouth Naval Base and a father of four boys, told the pupils: ‘I’m delighted to be involved in this initiative.
‘When you’re away for six to 12 months, you focus on operations and quite often it’s difficult to understand what’s going on back at home.
‘Sharing a book together is an easy way to let dads like me who are away and obsessed with what they are doing in Iraq or chasing pirates make a connection.’
So far 26 schools across The News region have signed up to Reading Force, which shares the aspirations of our campaign Read All About It to boost a love of reading.
Milton Park 11-year-olds Amy Houghton and Bradley Baptiste have dads in the navy. Amy said: ‘I can’t wait to start making my scrapbook.
‘When dad goes away we email him and tell him about what we’ve been doing.
‘But this is going to be so much better, because I love reading and the scrapbook will be something I can hold on to for ever.’
Bradley added: ‘I am so proud of my dad and I miss him when he goes away. This will bring me closer to him.’
The scheme, which is funded by the MoD’s directorate of children and young people and supported by Kingston University will cover Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire this year.
Alison Baverstock, programme director and an army wife, said: ‘A scheme like this means people are building something together while they are separated.’
Scrapbooks, which can be picked up from Hive military information centres, such as the one on Thorney Island, or online, should be submitted by September 12.
For information about the scheme and the prizes for the best entries see readingforce.org.uk