25 Reader Leaders from across the South West came together last week for a Masterclass on Reading with Older People as part of Loneliness Awareness Week.
There are currently 74 groups meeting across the region, including 14 in Somerset and 24 in Bristol.
Reader Leaders from Wiltshire and South Gloucester also made the trip to the Engine Shed in Bristol, as well as a representative from local partner Bristol Ageing Better.
Many groups, whether in care homes or the community, are geared towards getting older people reading aloud together.
That’s not least because half live alone and 10 per cent, almost two million people, don’t get to speak to friends or family in a given month.
“We wanted to do this event so you can feel comfortable stretching people, whatever their age,” said Kirsty Styles from The Reader.
“We want Reader Leaders to be ambitious in their reading choices and bold in the depth of discussion . Everyone wants new experiences – to feel alive.”
Local groups were thanked for participating in The Reader’s Feedback Week, with Bishopston Library in Bristol, Bridgwater Library in Somerset and Calne Library in Wiltshire all seeing their reading selections included in the first-ever Shared Reading Community Anthology. You can read more on that and download your own copy here.
Shared Reading groups leaders were given a copy of Now In Age I Bud Again, a special collection by The Reader for reading with older people, so-titled from a line in George Herbert’s The Flower.
The group then spent the first half of the event reading The Flower and spoke deeply about life, reinvention and loss.
How fresh, oh Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! even as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shriveled heart
Could have recovered greenness? It was gone
Quite underground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown,
Where they together
All the hard weather,
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
“I left my job after 38 years,” said one Reader Leader. “And it did feel like a bereavement.”
“With a little bit of attention, you can change the outlook of someone who’s gone inwards,” said another.
Later, the group discussed more about how to get the most out of their Readers.
“The group is powerful – and they are so supportive of each other,” explained one.
“You’re not controlling the thing – you’re just holding the thing. You’re delivering a piece of writing and holding a space where thoughts and feelings can be heard.
“Everything’s valid in that space – and it can just be acknowledged and held.”
“I used “The Flower” as part of my shared reading at Cheddar Library this Monday and it provoked some good discussion.”
For more information on how you can get involved in Shared Reading in the South West, visit https://www.thereader.org.uk/getinvolved/joinagroup/
This Reader volunteer get together was made possible thanks to the support of players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.