Since April this year, The Reader Organisation has been working on a fantastic Community Wellbeing Project alongside one of the world’s largest retailers – Tesco. It’s very new territory for TRO, and so we’ve all been very excited to see just how shared reading would develop in this kind of setting; could Get Into Reading in a supermarket café really work?
I am pleased to report a resounding YES! The first supermarket GIR group is now running in Tesco Litherland. It is called ‘Time for Me’, and we meet every Tuesday evening from 6.30pm till 7.30pm. The group is open to all, staff and customers, and thanks to the support of Tesco Litherland’s Community Champion, Sam Lupton, numbers are growing every week. We sit in comfy chairs in the café and enjoy a good read and conversation over a piece of cake. Apart from the occasional outburst over the tannoy, it is a GIR group like any other; relaxing, meaningful and remarkably intimate.
As a wider part of the project, we have also recruited 23 Tesco Community Champions to take part in an A Little, Aloud workshop, which is an introductory session designed to offer Tesco Community Champions the chance to build the confidence, enthusiasm and skills required to facilitate one to one shared reading sessions in their local communities. Using A Little, Aloud as a resource, we ran three sessions in Exeter, Liverpool and Hertford, hoping that the Community Champions would then be able to go on and facilitate one to one sessions in their local elderly care settings. For those of you who may have not come across them before, Community Champions are Tesco employees who identify local needs, develop local community initiatives and support local organisations, and so it seemed a natural fit for shared reading to become an innovative engagement tool that these dedicated staff could use within their community. Since the workshops, several Community Champions are already out in their community delivering sessions, and last week, I caught up with Lindsay Kennedy from Tesco Heswall to hear about her experiences so far:
I’ve been delivering shared reading one to one sessions in my local care home since the start of September, and it has been a truly fantastic experience. Taking part in the workshop itself was very enjoyable because it was relaxed and informal, and completely outside of my normal working environment. It wasn’t what I was expecting; I had felt nervous beforehand but soon relaxed once I realised that it was about giving people a positive experience, listening to their stories, as well as telling your own. I learnt lots and felt that I got to know my fellow colleagues in a different way.
Since the workshop, I’ve been reading with several ladies in Fairfield Nursing Home every fortnight, which is just the right amount of time to fit in with my 18 hour week. It has been very rewarding to hear their life stories and to know that you are giving somebody in your community a positive experience- it makes me feel all warm inside! Customers have recognised me in the care home when they’ve been visiting their family, and I’ve felt proud of being part of something so special. This isn’t something I would have imagined myself doing, and yet now, it’s become a part of my job that I look forward to and feel incredibly passionate about. It really is a completely interactive, rewarding experience unlike anything else I do in my job.
If you would like more information about this project or are interested in coming along to the GIR group at Tesco Litherland, feel free to get in touch with me on 07807106750 or at email@example.com.