CHILDREN of forces families from around Helensburgh and Lomond headed to a recently refurbished Helensburgh community centre for a special event with an award-winning author last week.

Vivian French MBE, the author of more than 40 books for all young ages, from early readers up to young adults, visited the Drumfork Centre to tell pupils from the area’s primary schools all about her books and how she became an author.

Vivian’s visit was organised by Reading Force, a charity which encourages military families to read books together, whether at home or by using modern technology while parents are away on deployment.

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Vivian said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to work with military children.

“My cousins were moved all over the world as my uncle was in the Navy - and I know how important books were to them.

“Reading the same stories – even if one member of the family is far away – brings a wonderful shared experience, and the feeling that mum or dad, or a brother or sister, are still very close at hand.”

Reading Force is a useful tool schools can offer their military children as it helps keep families close, can be used as a support during transitions such as military deployment, and with anxiety and confidence issues.

And Vivian had plenty of encouragement for the young storytellers in her audience.

She said: “I was really good at just one thing at school. I wasn’t good at writing. Drawing pictures? No. Maths? No, even now I still get confused.

“It was something teachers are not always very enthusiastic about: talking.

“But being good at talking is really useful when it comes to writing stories.

“When you’re writing a story you’re using something that you use all the time when you’re talking – words. And if you can use words, you can tell a story.”

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Vivian revealed that she was put off writing stories at school when, in her first year at secondary school, her teacher tore up a story she’d written, in front of the whole class, and threw it in the bin.

Instead she tried her hand at being an actor – until one day, the rest of her theatre troupe failed to turn up for a performance of a play at a school after their van broke down.

“I thought ‘well, the only thing I can do is tell the story of the play’,” she continued.

“The van eventually turned up, and they’d had a puncture. But I’d discovered that I really liked telling stories.

“Then I met somebody who writes children’s books and who said ‘you like telling stories, have you ever thought about writing them down?’

“No, I said – my handwriting and spelling are rubbish. But she said that was nonsense – if you can tell a story you can write a story.”

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As well as listening to Vivian’s talk, the children in her two audiences received a signed book from Vivian to keep – as well as a special Reading Force scrapbook to write about their book with their families at home.

Reading Force ambassador Fiona Maxwell said: “We hope the military children of Helensburgh enjoyed meeting Vivian and that they will now be inspired to share their books at home with their families, or over Skype or Facetime if they are separated by deployment, and chat about them.

“Nothing beats sharing a good book and story with loved ones; Reading Force can be used to keep families close and connected during separations or simply as a fun family activity at home.”

All military families can sign up to Reading Force – to do so, and find out more about the project, visit