Volunteers lead the way for shared reading in Leicestershire

“It has been really exciting to watch something grow (like a seed) where it didn’t exist before, to watch it flourish and to be part of bringing that about is really exciting… I am always amazed at what we can learn through sharing our experiences with others.” – volunteer group leader

One of our groups sharing some reading as part of the Leicestershire Libraries project
One of our groups sharing some reading as part of the Leicestershire Libraries project

Since April 2014, shared reading has been taking place weekly in libraries across Leicestershire. The Reader Organisation partnered with Leicestershire County Council for the Leicestershire Libraries project, with volunteers being trained and supported to set up and run reading groups using our shared reading model. From one pilot group, seven groups now run across the area – all but one of which are led by our volunteers – and over 170 people in the area have experienced shared reading since the project began. We’re happy to say that feedback has been very positive, with benefits such as a deeper sense of relaxation and the forming of friendships emerging from the comments given by group members:

“I really have enjoyed beginning my week with this session. It’s a chance to catch up with the friends I’ve made and to lose myself in the depths of stories every week.”

“It has become a ‘must’ for my husband, he has memory problems, and looks forward to the group.”

“I need a goal to make me leave the house. I now look forward to Fridays.”

You can read more about some of our Leicestershire group members and their growing connections with shared reading on our website: Leicestershire Reader Stories

The success of the project simply wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of our volunteers, who give up their time week on week to offer the opportunity to take part in shared reading to new and returning members. Their commitment and enthusiasm has allowed bonds between those who read to flourish, and the experience of connecting with literature and the community has proved rewarding for them too. One of our volunteer group leaders shared their story of how they’re finding it so far:

“One of the first things which struck me about the groups is the ability of poems and short stories to open (or reopen) people’s minds to new thoughts. I believe there is something ‘childlike’ about all art – but literature, in particular, for me, is about allowing ourselves to play ‘let’s pretend’ and be carried along with the unfamiliar experiences/ideas which the author or poet is guiding us through. To do this in a group is extraordinary and seeing how different members respond is fascinating.”

The project has been recommissioned for 2015-16, enabling it to reach even newer heights – plans are underway to open two new groups in Loughborough and Market Harborough.

We’re currently recruiting for new volunteers to join the project and help run our shared reading groups across the area. Training will take place on Monday 7th, Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th September at Wigston Library, Leicester, with continued ongoing support from The Reader Organisation and the library service.

If you are interested in volunteering in Leicestershire or want to know more about the project, please contact Nicola Bennison, Leicestershire Libraries Project Coordinator: nicolabennison@thereader.org.uk

Take a look at our current list of open groups in Leicestershire – in Melton Mowbray, Coalville, Hinckley, Wigston, Blaby, Oadby and Glenfield – on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us

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