From Kate McDonnell, Quality Practice Manager
Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more “literary” you are. That’s my definition anyway. Telling detail. – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
That’s one (wonderful!) way of looking at Quality: on a sunny Saturday in April, The Reader Organisation’s first Shared Reading Practitioner Day was full of them, and one of the most inspiring features of the day was the feeling of movement, of looking in at the same thing from different angles, of being challenged to keep thinking, to dig down into the detail.
The day marked The Reader Organisation’s new determination to explore what Quality in Shared Reading Practice means and to go on to produce a humanly useful Quality Framework – a living and lively system which won’t be a corset or suit of armour – constricting on the inside or the outside – but a support and inspiration for continuous growth.
The potential impact of shared reading on our public services, of how we live our lives and connect with one another, is enormous. Revolutionary. The significance of this intention begins with us, taking ourselves and our practice seriously; to have this Good Thing we are doing acknowledged as Great. In the opening to the day, as new Quality Practice Manager at The Reader Organisation, I introduced the notion of quality and what it means to us in the practice of shared reading; how the quality of what we are doing in real terms can take time to show its effects, but sometimes can seem to come out of Nowhere, a notion expressed in the poem that opened the day, ‘Spring is like a perhaps hand’ by e.e. cummings.
Most of the day’s workshops used literature itself to focus on values, qualities and ways of being which may be of help as we run shared reading groups. In my session, for example, entitled ‘Care’, we looked at a chapter from War and Peace in which a rough and ready peasant soldier uses kindly small talk and ‘telling a story’ to bring someone who has been traumatised after witnessing an execution back into communication with his fellow-man, whilst one of our most experienced project workers, Clare Ellis, ran a session on ‘Patience’, using extracts from George Eliot’s Silas Marner. I find this sentence she picked out particularly illuminating in relation to Quality:
‘Our consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us: there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud.’
I love the fact that this gives us permission to take time, and that whether we’re ready to register it or not on the surface, if we’re nourished, there may be plenty going on beneath which will eventually burst forth. I hope we all felt that our sap had been well and truly circulated! As one facilitator running a shared reading group in a library emailed me after the day: ‘I feel replenished – it was like visiting a well.’
If you were a part of ‘Speaking our own Language’: The Reader Organisation’s first Shared Reading Practitioner Day, you can keep the discussions about quality shared reading going through logging on to the Shared Reading Hub, the resource for shared reading practitioners, at any time.
You can also let us know how the Shared Reading Hub can best support you in your shared reading endeavours by completing a brief online survey – all thoughts and responses welcome.