This time last year our training team went ‘down under’ to deliver a Read to Lead training course at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne. Well, the Reading Revolution has started to take off there thanks to project manager Susan McLaine and the ‘Book Well’ scheme, based on our Get Into Reading model, has recently been the focus of a feature piece in Melbourne’s daily newspaper The Age:
In a small room in Kew, with moss green carpet and a burbling fish tank, four men are discussing a Seamus Heaney poem. It tells of a son who used to trail his dad as he worked the horse plough, stumbling in “his hob-nailed wake”. Now, the son has grown up. It’s the ageing father who stumbles behind.”That’s a great poem isn’t it, very picturesque,” says Garry, a squat man with a goatee whose hand shakes as he holds the page.
“I think it’s sad,” says Bill, who is pale and bald and wears moccasins without socks. “I know we all have to grow old but it’s illuminated here.”
The group talks about that invisible moment when the roles change and the son becomes the father. Then Bill says, “I get a great relief when this poem is read to me. I don’t have any inhibition. I can let myself inwardly go. I can concentrate 360 per cent.”
Bill has schizophrenia and dementia due to alcohol abuse. Not long ago, his carers thought he’d lost the power of speech and were considering putting him in a nursing home. But today he’s perceptive and lucid.
This reading group is at Kew’s Prague House – a residential facility for aged people with a mental illness or alcohol-related brain injury. Here today are Garry, who is schizophrenic, Don, who has dementia due to alcohol abuse, Frank, who has schizophrenia and an intellectual disability, and Bill. The list of illnesses is daunting. But when I learn of them, after attending the group, I’m surprised. A lot of deep stuff and powerful memories have been aired…
We wish the Victorians every success in securing more funding for ‘Book Well’ and send our congratulations on their development of the project so far – fantastic work.