Putting our collective Reader brains together on another big Think Day get-together at our Reader HQ at Calderstones Park.
“Believe that life is worth living and your belief will create the fact.”
Twice a year, we gather our Reader staff from every corner of the UK together for two days, to catch up on developments within the organisation, share our thoughts on how things have been going and of course, enjoy a little reading.
We call these biannual get-togethers Think Days and they’re aptly named! During these days we put our collective Reader brains together to consider what’s working, where we could do better, how we can adapt to the changing world around us and unpick a piece of literature together in Shared Reading sessions.
Fuelled by tea, cake and delicious soul-food from The Reader Café team, it can be a very busy two days because asides from all the important organisational thinking we have to do it’s also a rare and valued chance to catch up with our colleagues who work elsewhere in the UK. Bringing everyone from the North West, Midlands, South West, Northern Ireland and London together at our Calderstones Park HQ here in Liverpool – it’s quite the family gathering.
On Monday morning our Director Jane Davis, kick started Think Day by reading aloud an incredible Reader Story from Rose, a reader at one of our care home groups – a reminder of the very real, very important impact our work can have on individual lives.
Rose is 77 and has been a Care Home resident for three years
“We’re all pleased about you coming! We feel like somebody cares. We didn’t know what to expect when we first started the group, but what we got was lovely! It makes you feel important, that you matter because you want to know what’s going on. I mean if you didn’t come, we’d have nothing to think about.
It’s surprising what it does to the mind. Your mind starts wondering when you’re unhappy, it wanders too much. After you’ve been and we’ve read these poems, I think it helps a lot. Everything in your mind seems clearer. I often think about them after you’ve left.”
We work throughout the year to bring Shared Reading to those who need it most in schools, hospitals, prisons, care homes, libraries and many other settings across the country.We work with thousands of people who, just like Rose, get something they really need from Shared Reading, and their stories are always inspiring, humbling and rewarding to hear. We had gathered together, probably for the last time before it undergoes redevelopment to become The Reader’s International Centre for Reading and Well-being, in the main room in our dear old dilapidated Calderstones Mansion. Here we all were anchored by our shared history and the important impact of our work, on the cusp of great change and huge potential and promise for the future.
Jane continued with news of big organisational updates and laid out the plan for our busy two days together. Breaking into groups, staff brought their different areas of expertise and experience into discussions about recruiting, training and supporting our growing volunteer base, how we can reach out to more potential group members and build new Reader communities across the UK.
Over the two days we discussed how best to manage our internal communications, keeping our many remote workers connected and sharing examples of best practice with our colleagues. We also had the opportunity to learn more about our growing Social Enterprise team at Calderstones, exploring ways that we can expand on our fantastic businesses like The Storybarn, Ice Cream Parlour and Reader Café and build Reader communities around them. We also heard from George, our Development Manager who told us all about the exciting plans for our Big Give Christmas Challenge, rallying us all into the festive spirit with exciting fundraising ideas.
With so much big, brain-draining thinking to be done it was a relief to finish up each day by practicing what we preach with a little Shared Reading and this Think Day we were in for a real treat as it was our first opportunity for many of our staff to explore our extensive new Oxford World Classics library, one of the practical outcomes of our partnership with Oxford University Press. Gathering in small groups our staff tucked into great reads together, sharing thoughts and personal reflections and taking some well earned time out from the work of the day. Some colleagues enjoyed a classic that was completely new to them, while others revisited something they’d read before in a new light, here’s what some of them had to say:
“Wow! Really makes you think and takes you out of your comfort zone. A true workout for the brain and encourages (while challenging) you to look at life differently.”
Nicola, Facilities Manager on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ The Major Works
“This is a book that I have read before, but first time around I didn’t really enjoy it. Re-visiting it with a group has been really interesting because of all the new takes on characters that I previously disliked.”
Maddie, Reader Leader on F Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby
“Hugely enlightening. Allows readers to relate many older poems to modern day life and strife. Hugely religious and a great focus on nature which I found very enjoyable.“
David, Catering Manager on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ The Major Works
“Introducing this poet to a group was always going to be a challenge, but reading the poems together is a markedly different experience from reading them alone, and has enabled me to appreciate them much more deeply.”
Nicky, Reader Leader on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ The Major Works
“Thought-provoking, fascinating characters. Good discussion prompted by the stories. Never have read this author before – will read more!”
Celia, Volunteer Coordinator on Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg Ohio
“I actually read this book earlier this year but it was fantastic to read it with a group, you take things so much more slowly, think about it all so much more deeply, and hearing other people’s opinions has really made me rethink the characters – perhaps I was too harsh on Morell when I read it first time round – may need to reread it right through again!”
Emma, Communications Assistant on DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers
See more from our Think Day get together: