The Reader Organisation in the South West

The Reader Organisation has a fairly new and growing presence in the South West of England. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you updates from the South West team starting with Project Manager Sarah Hopkins, who fills us in on what TRO South West is all about…

The South West office has been operating for ten months with a relatively small but passionate and dedicated team working across the peninsular. Get Into Reading in the South West focuses on adult mental health and reducing social isolation in rural areas. There are currently 13 groups running across Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth, Dorset and Somerset – with more in the pipeline.

A primary aim of our work is to help people overcome various social difficulties – such as loneliness, boredom and exclusion. Members experience highly personal benefits as a result of attending; Plymouth MIND and Yeovil Community Reading Group being amongst those taking something extremely positive away from sessions:

“It’s an effort to get motivated but once in the group, my spirits are lifted”

“I could not read very well. I have been reading out loud.”

“I think sessions may offer more choice and control in my life, but more notable is a sense of achievement and worth.”

Library Memory Groups for people with dementia and their carers have been set up as a direct response to the high proportion of over 50’s in the region. Groups run in Somerset, Dorset, Exeter and North Devon, with more being requested. The Exeter group is proving particularly successful and is overloaded with 14 participants. Many people have reported positive effects that extend beyond groups:

“We talk to everyone about it! Friends, family and other carers” – Exeter carer

“It’s really stirred up my memory” – Exeter participant

“I’ve never read poetry before because I’ve never understood it. I like the poetry but we also come because it’s a positive group and we can chat and be social as a couple. You can’t always do that” – Tiverton carer

“My husband has been reading poetry at home all week; he loves this group. He always gets the folder of poems out to show his sitter” – Tiverton carer

One particularly noticeable benefit the Library Memory Groups has is upon members who have withdrawn from speech; reading aloud can significantly help with fluency. Professionals who have observed at selected sessions have witnessed the remarkable effects of the Reading Revolution in action.

Other sessions take place in medical settings, in GPs surgeries – with a 100% attendance of 8 people over 10 weeks; The Haldon Clinic for Young People with Eating Disorders, a hospital day centre in Dorset; and Russell Clinic for Rehabilitation at the Wonford Hospital, Exeter.

“Two of those who are very withdrawn and find it hard to trust people and engage with them would, previously, find any activity that could lead to any kind of intimacy, a total no-no. At the final session the worst of these spoke fluently and for several minutes about how important the sessions had been to her and how she had been enabled by them to begin a journey of trusting others. She now takes that confidence to another group she attends.”- Co-ordinator of Kingscare, Devon

An important local initiative is to research and open up disused nineteenth century Reading Rooms, which will be taken over by community volunteers trained and supported by us. The first, a Fisherman’s Reading Room in the remote and library-less village of Newton Ferrers, opened in May.

There is no shortage of people wanting to Get Into Reading in the South West. What is needed is the help of philanthropists and corporate sponsors to join as partners, as well as people with a passion for reading who want to become trained shared reading facilitators, to ensure that the net can be spread as wide as possible.

TRO South West is holding its next 3-day Read To Lead Core Training Open Course at Dartington, Monday 23rd January – Wednesday 25th January 2012, 9.30am -5.30pm. Interested? Ring Sarah Hopkins on 01364 653994 or Casi Dylan on 0151 207 7207/e-mail casidylan@thereader.org.uk .

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