A FORCES family separated by the war in Afghanistan have been using the power of reading to stay in touch.

The Edmonds family from Carterton were among hundreds of service families nationally who took part in the Reading Force competition.

The contest aims to get families reading and talking about the same book together via the Internet, then producing a scrapbook based on the story.

So impressed were judges with the efforts of 12-year-old Chloe, nine-year-old Nicole, mum Marie and dad Michael that the family won one of the top prizes to watch a celebrity photoshoot.

Sgt Edmonds, 41, was deployed to Afghanistan in August, midway through the project, and is due to return home next week.

Based at RAF Brize Norton in 1 Air Movements Wing, Sgt Edmonds has been in the RAF 24 years and is on his first tour of duty in Afghan-istan.

Mrs Edmonds, 39, said: “We had read most of the book before he left but we finished it off via Skype.

“It's really good because it gives them something to do, something to focus on, rather than being upset that dad’s away.”

The family chose Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney and have since bought its sequels.

The girls now make a regular habit of snuggling up in bed at the end of the day to read together.

Speaking from Afghanistan, Sgt Edmonds said: “We did have a lot of fun reading the book together, both before I deployed and since then using Skype.

“Both Chloe and Nicole love reading and it was smashing to do something all together.

“It's not always easy for the children when I go away, so doing anything to make the time go by is always beneficial for them.”

Chloe, a pupil at Carterton Community College, said the experience was “fun”.

She said: “Instead of going off and doing other things, I have sat down and spent time with my family.

“We got quite into it and my favourite part was making all the stuff for the scrapbook.”

Nicole, who goes to St Joseph’s Primary School, said: “It was a good opportunity to spend extra time talking to daddy and extra time reading.”

Both girls said they were excited about the photoshoot with Hello! magazine of Denise van Outen.

Carterton Community College English teacher Chris Davies said the scheme had proved very successful with the families that took part. He said: “There were some families who really benefited from being involved, especially when there's been an awkwardness because of a posting.

“With Chloe and Nicole, it’s a nice example of an older sister at secondary and a younger at primary being inspired and motivated to read because of the project.”