The Spark Series: Shakespeare’s As You Like It

Ahead of his one-day literary workshop at Birkenhead Central Library, Tom tells us why he’s chosen to explore Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

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Get Involved: International Day of Charity

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Today is the UN’s International Day of Charity, a day to celebrate the organisations and individuals who help to create real social bonds and inclusive, more resilient societies.

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Volunteer with The Reader in Cheshire East

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We’re currently recruiting volunteers in Cheshire East – if you’re interested in delivering a regular Shared Reading session find out how you can get involved.

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Volunteer with The Reader in Merseyside

Looking for something new to do in the New Year? Want to use your love of reading to help make a big difference? We’re currently recruiting for people to join our Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, in a variety of roles.

“Their faces light up when we walk in. They look forward to that hour. And when we leave, after being with a group, we feel great ourselves.”
Our volunteers provide shared reading sessions for older people across Merseyside on a weekly basis, either as Care Home Readers working in pairs to deliver groups in care homes, and Reading Friends who visit older people in their own homes. Full training and support is provided, and you don’t need to be a lifelong or experienced reader to take part – all abilities are welcome.
If you don’t feel that a reading role is for you just yet, then we also offer Admin Assistant and Admin Reader roles at our offices in Calderstones and Birkenhead, with the opportunity to develop your personal reading as well as helping us with our day-to-day running, preparing short stories and poems to be read within groups across Merseyside.
Take a look at the video below to see what being part of the Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme means to our beneficiaries and volunteers:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aogfQT3uHM]

Volunteer training will commence on Friday 22nd January 2016 at Calderstones Mansion, Liverpool. For more information about the Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme, please contact Megg Hewlett, Volunteer Manager: megghewlett@thereader.org.uk

Shared Reading in Libraries

P1000169‘Well I just love coming. It’s something to look forward to. It makes you think…when I’m here I don’t think of anything else.’ – shared reading group member in Melton Mowbray Library, Leicestershire

Each week our Shared Reading groups are taking place in libraries across the UK, connecting people of all ages and backgrounds with literature and one another. From groups improving health and wellbeing in West London to groups that help stimulate memories and reconnect older people with those closest to them in Wiltshire and the South West, shared reading in library settings is creating a variety of positive impacts for individuals and within local communities.

Take a look at how Shared Reading works in libraries across the UK

Researching Reading Groups

Are you a facilitator or a member of a Shared Reading group? A small collective of experienced researchers with backgrounds in education and lifelong learning are currently exploring the part that libraries play in supporting reading groups, including shared reading groups, in the community and in promoting reading for pleasure. Their research will document what is currently happening and highlight best practice in this important area of libraries’ work.

To help, they want to find out more about why people join Shared Reading groups and why they keep coming. If you have a story about your experience of Shared Reading in libraries, please do get in touch.

For more information, please contact Lesley Dee: ld205@cam.ac.uk

Here are some examples of what’s happening around the country

During shared reading sessions, people may identify with the experiences revealed by characters in literature and find a way of linking it to their own lives – perhaps subconsciously. Over time, and with the help of the support of others in the group and the texts that are read, they may feel confident enough to find their voice on difficult subjects and discover different perspectives within themselves. A is one of our regular group members at Seacombe Library, Wirral:

P1000174“A, who attends the group each week, is a keen reader and it’s always a pleasure to share a story with him. Recently we read an extract from Dickens’s Great Expectations that introduces the reader to Miss Havisham and her self-imposed seclusion at Satis House. I asked A what he made of Miss Havisham and why he thought she lived her life in that way. ‘She could be scared’, was his response. I agreed with him and asked why he thought that was the case. ‘Because she’s stuck in the past; she still wears the same clothes and doesn’t want to move on’.

I asked A to imagine he were Pip and standing before Miss Havisham. ‘What advice would you give her?’ I asked. ‘To move forward slowly’. I thought this was a really insightful comment, and perhaps one that mirrors A’s own experience. We ended the group with A asking if he could keep his copy of the extract so he could read it again in his own time. It was with this request that I realised how much the group had meant to him.”

It’s not only our readers who are benefitting from sharing stories in their local library, but also volunteers – over in Leicestershire, our project with Leicestershire Libraries is almost entirely run by volunteers, creating hundreds of reading experiences and lasting friendships across the county, including the weekly group in Oadby Library:

“What was the best thing for me was seeing, possibly for the first time, the real benefit of shared reading. B said she just listened with her eyes closed to me reading which she found very helpful. By the end of the session her colour had literally returned and she forgot herself and, helped by D’s personality and the literature, became animated and laughed. Equally S and D had apparently been reading poems to each other the previous day and D has joined a poetry appreciation group, inspired by reading poetry in our group.”

Sheffield celebrates Shared Reading

Last month, just days after our 2015 AGM, we headed to Sheffield for a special event showcasing and celebrating the impact of shared reading. We’ve been working with Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust since 2011, and for the last year have had a dedicated Reader-in-Residence delivering shared reading sessions across the trust in inpatient, community and primary care settings.

Sheffield cakeStaff and volunteers from across the trust, including those who have lived experience of mental health, joined us to share their personal experiences of shared reading and the differences it has made to them both personally and professionally, in their jobs and communities in which they live and work. As well as hearing these powerful first-hand testimonials, there was the chance to read a selection of poems collectively – and enjoy a slice of specially-made Reader cake!

Along with our Founder and Director Jane Davis, Katie McAllister, The Reader’s Development Manager for Mental Health, was also in the audience:

“Mia Bajin, the Patient and Public Involvement Manager at SHSC, who was instrumental in Sheffield commissioning a Read to Lead course way back in 2011, talked about the history of the project and about how much has been read since it started  – it’s almost the equivalent of reading every Shakespeare play 15 times!

After hearing from our Reader-in-Residence about the range of groups that have been set up and supported by The Reader in the past year, we got to hear from Read to Lead trained mental health and social care professionals and how the training has impacted trust service users directly through the delivery of shared reading.

“You learn to carve a space, and people see an opening to say what they want to say” – Read to Lead trained member of staff at Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust

“The words, they’re lovely” – reaction from a dementia patient reading within Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust

We broke out into three shared reading sessions in which we read Wood Grouse on a High Promontory Overlooking Canada by David Guterson (thanks Shaun!) and Evening by Rainer Maria Rilke. Finally, we heard from Trust Chief Executive Kevan Taylor who talked about his own personal reading experiences, and what reading meant to him. Of our work he said, “the evidence base [for shared reading] is clearly there”.

“There’s an Emily Dickinson poem for every day of your life” – Kevan Taylor, Chief Executive of Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust

At the centre of the event was the work we have been doing within SHSC for the last year. Shaun Lawrence is Reader-in-Residence for Sheffield:

“On the day, I was caught up in the moment and was kept busy hosting the event and speaking about my experiences, so much of the morning was, I confess, rather a blur. For me the event was the culmination of a year’s work which began in November 2014 as I joined The Reader, since when I have been working to develop my skills as a shared reading practitioner alongside building up a solid relationship with colleagues in the Trust, in order to establish and develop my groups.

I was thrilled to realise the depth of feeling for the work that I have undertaken at SHSC over the past year. I got a real sense of the strength of the connections that had been made between people on the wards, and of the lasting effects of the shared reading groups which extended beyond each of the weekly sessions. I was also delighted by the sense of pride in the project that was evident in the volunteers, ward colleagues and recent Read to Lead trainees here at SHSC, and hearing the testimonials from them was for me, a real joy. Indeed, to hear first-hand experiences from staff about the impact of those groups on service users, and also with staff alike, really brought home to me the difference that the work of The Reader is making to people’s lives across the Trust.

I was very proud to be able to celebrate the success of my project in Sheffield and felt that having Jane present to hear the heart-warming testimonials from long standing volunteer readers was a validation in the trust that The Reader placed in me as a remote worker.”

Congratulations to Shaun and everyone involved in making shared reading such a success in Sheffield.

“It is such a meaningful thing to do”: Volunteering in Barnet

DSC_0028The Reader’s volunteer-led projects in Barnet, North London were our first outside of our base in Merseyside and since their start in 2011 they’ve gone from strength to strength, engaging local people in the pleasure – and often, the power – that comes from shared reading.

Our Barnet volunteer projects focus on reading with community groups, memory loss groups and within care and day centre settings for people living with dementia and their carers. We’re working with Jewish Care, Altogether Better and Comic Relief to enable volunteers to receive training and ongoing support to lead groups in pairs, sustaining the shared reading experience for those who we already read with and bringing it to many more people.

Our volunteers in Barnet are from all walks of life and backgrounds – some have joined us after long careers in healthcare and related settings, some have previous experience with sharing reading. Others have experienced the impacts great literature has had on people they are close to, or just simply have a passion for reading that they want to pass onto others.

Jennifer began her volunteering journey with us after regularly attending a shared reading group with her grandmother. She took part in training and went onto run her own group at the care home she worked at. Her story shows how choosing to volunteer can make a change not only to the lives of those who read, but to volunteers themselves:

“I left school with very poor qualifications, but by having the experience of facilitating in shared reading I was led to a more formal course of learning and have since been able to enrol in a course for serious readers, the Reading in Practice MA. I never imagined I would be working towards earning a degree in my whole life so that is a big surprise and benefit for me. It gave me the confidence to leave full-time employment and ask to be a fully-fledged volunteer shared reading facilitator in a community group at Burnt Oak Library. This is good as I have read a lot more short stories and now we are reading a novel together.

You don’t have to have an English degree or any qualifications to be a shared reading facilitator. You just have to be willing to learn a new craft, and be available once a week, ongoing. You equally share the responsibility of running the group with another shared reading facilitator. There is also the support of a network of other volunteers who are all on the journey of becoming shared reading facilitators. Even the best are still learning. You don’t even have to know that much about poems or books.

From admittedly not having a scrap of appreciation for poetry and an increasing sense of shame for not reading very much at all, I have developed a love for poetry and a desire to read. I can’t wait each week to listen to people reading. It is such a rare thing. I feel I have definitely gained more confidence in public speaking. I have far better conversational skills and am able to quote poems, which makes me sound like I have been reading poetry all my life! It makes me feel really clever. Everyone involved is warm and friendly and it is such a meaningful thing to do.

Side effects of volunteering for The Reader: One day down the line, you may have to buy a bookshelf. It might make you visit the library (or even apply for a library card!). You may read that book you have been ignoring for ages. You may develop a love of poetry. You can talk to others about books and poems without any snobbery or pretence. You may make friends. You may want to run more groups. You may be really surprised at what reading together can create. You will definitely enjoy it.”

Read Jennifer’s story in full on our website.

We are now recruiting for more volunteers to join us in Barnet on our Jewish Care, Altogether Better (reading with community groups/community memory loss groups) and Comic Relief (reading with people living with dementia and their carers) projects. Volunteers will be paired to run shared reading groups, with full training and ongoing support from The Reader.

For more information on these opportunities, please contact Paul Higgins: paulhiggins@thereader.org.uk or call 07985 718744. You can also see our website for further details. 

The Reader Organisation’s Review of 2014: Part 2

Yesterday we brought you the first part of our highlights from 2014 – from feeling Better with a Book to Shakespeare to a visit from a Royal guest…

Here’s the second part of what happened at The Reader Organisation this year:

Book Close UpResearch

Our research partners CRILS at the University of Liverpool are seeking to set the world agenda in reading, health and wellbeing and the role of literature in modelling creative thinking about human existence. Contributing to a growing evidence base, three new reports were published this year by CRILS with partners including the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen NHS Hospital Trust which demonstrate the impacts of shared reading to participants in groups in a range of settings.

Specific studies examining a literature-based intervention for people living with chronic pain and development of research into how shared reading improves quality of life for people living with dementia brought forth a number of positive findings, and the intrinsic cultural value of The Reader Organisation’s weekly shared reading groups in providing a meaningful experience for different sectors of communities was also brought into the spotlight. All three reports can be read in detail on our website.

Courses

This year we created many more shared reading practitioners around the UK and internationally with our revolutionary Read to Lead course. We’ve worked with a range of organisations in places including Calderstones Mansion House, Sheffield, Leicester, Derry, Durham, Devon, and Flanders in Belgium – equipping hundreds of people with the skills to share reading in their workplaces and communities.

Our Ongoing Learning programme brought more Masterclasses touring around the country, and there was a brilliant programme of Short Courses for Serious Readers throughout the year discovering a wealth of great literature from varying topics and eras including The Divine Comedy by Dante, a Whizz-tour through the World of Children’s Literature and learning to Feel the Fear and Read it Anyway with selections of challenging literature.

Awards

Klasse_Jane_Davis-0053-bewerkt 72 dpiWe were delighted to have our impact recognised on a local and national scale by being shortlisted for the Culture Champion award in the Powerful Together Awards for Social Enterprises across Merseyside and the Resilence category at the RBS SE100 Awards – both amazing achievements.

Our Founder and Director Jane Davis was nominated for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the Northern heats and shortlisted for Social Enterprise UK’s Women’s Champion Award.

Other highlights

There were plenty of other wonderful things we took part in this year, including a global celebration of reading aloud on World Read Aloud Day, bringing shared reading to the bill at Latitude Festival, combining poetry with the great outdoors on World Mental Health Day and delivering taster sessions at the Literary Kitchen Festival in South London.

This year also saw the expansion of our work into other areas of communal life, namely the opening of The Reader Cafe and The Reader Gallery at Calderstones Mansion House, which have been bustling with people enjoying local exhibitions and a scrumptious selection of food and drink alongside a poem.

G31A7233In September, we signed a lease with Liverpool City Council for Calderstones Mansion House giving us residency for 125 years, allowing us to begin the next stages of development for the International Centre for Reading – and we also relocated our Head Office to the beautiful surroundings of Calderstones too.

Shared reading

Great literature remains at the heart of what we do and this year we expanded the core of our work, bringing shared reading and its benefits to even more people across the country. We began new projects for people with dementia/memory loss and their carers in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, enabled more volunteers to join us to share reading in London, North Wales, South West and Leicestershire, began a pioneering project with service users, staff and volunteers at Phoenix Futures and employed our first Reader-in-Residence in Sheffield.

Without doubt the best of our highlights come from our Readers who shared their remarkable stories with us, including Shad, D and A.

“Like a person who is discovering his senses I am becoming aware of the wonders of existence that I once took for granted,  but that was cruelly snatched from me by adverse circumstances… I am once again discovering the joy of settling down to a good read.”

Our thanks go out to everyone who has supported us throughout the year – our work could not continue without the valued input of so many people. We hope to keep reading with you for years to come!

You can read more about our work in our Annual Report 2013/14, available on our website.

We’ll be back in the New Year, and until then wish you all a very happy and peaceful festive season.