In 2008, Morrison visited a ‘Get into Reading’ group in Birkenhead, where Jane Davis from ‘The Reader Centre’ was helping the group to unlock the unfamiliar language of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. At the time there were 50 such groups across Merseyside.
In 2018, there are over 500 such groups across the UK, and while the language we use to talk about them might have transformed in that time (Get into Reading became Shared Reading, The Reader Centre is now simply The Reader) the heart of the matter is just the same:
“These reading groups aren’t just about helping people feel less isolated or building their self-esteem. Nor are they merely a pretext, in an area of high unemployment, for giving the experience of working as a unit. More ambitiously, they’re an experiment in healing, or, to put it less grandiosely, an attempt to see whether reading can alleviate pain or mental distress.”
Has the experiment paid off? Certainly, there are currently over 3000 groups members and 900 volunteers across the UK who would attest that it has for them, and research from University of Liverpool has confirmed that Shared Reading groups can improve wellbeing, reduce social isolation and build stronger, more supportive communities.
Blake Morrison, who has since become a Patron of The Reader, returns to Merseyside this Sunday as part of the Liverpool Literature Festival. Morrison will join Jane Davis in conversation to explore why his article The Reading Cure was a defining moment in the life of The Reader, which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary.
Liverpool Literary Festival – Now We Are Ten: Making Literature Part of The Fabric of Life
Sunday 21 October 2018
1:00 pm – 1:45 pm