The Big Give Christmas Challenge – Helping Isolated Older People

Bring Shared Reading to a new community

Last December, The Reader launched a three-day fundraising campaign as part of The Big Give’s Christmas Challenge. Supported by The Pilgrim Trust and the Postcode Support Trust, The Reader raised over £50,000 and was named Best UK Charity in the Christmas Challenge Awards. Donations from our wonderful supporters and partners have already allowed us to train 15 new volunteer Reader Leaders and provided increased support and ongoing training for over 50 existing volunteers currently reading with older people at risk of social isolation.

With the remaining funds, we plan to create a new Shared Reading community in an area where they we do not currently work. Under this new community-led project, we will train 12 additional Reader Leaders and provide a bespoke programme of learning and support worth over £10,000.

You helped us raise the money, now help us spread the word!

We are inviting applications from across the country, for a new training programme which aims to reduce social isolation and improve the mental health and well-being of older people. Fully-funded for two years, applications are welcome from community groups, individuals and small organisations who wish to bring our unique Shared Reading model to their community, creating something real and meaningful for isolated older residents.

Shared Reading improves well-being, reduces social isolation and builds stronger communities, as one 95-year-old lady who read one-to-one with a Reader Volunteer in Wirral said:

“It really brightens my day, because I don’t see anybody some days, so when the Reader Volunteer comes on a Tuesday morning, it brightens my week. We do something different, the poems and the stories we read are different each time and we have such a good discussion about them. It’s a one-to-one discussion – why we enjoyed it, what we think it’s all about, you really get to the bottom of it. It gives me something to think about, something extra to think about and I really, truly enjoy it.” 

This is an exciting opportunity for passionate and motivated people to become part of a collaborative movement and build a long-term, sustainable Shared Reading community dedicated to supporting older people. All applicants must be able to self-fund any travel or accommodation costs incurred by attending the Read to Lead training course which will take place from Tuesday 29 to Thursday 31 August. The location of the course will be determined by the strength and spread of successful applications.


How to apply:

All applicants must be able to commit to:

  • Attending ALL course dates in August (Tuesday 29 – Thursday 31)
  • A two-year programme of involvement
  • Providing regular communications and reports to The Reader, including evaluation and monitoring of activities and case studies
  • Self-funding any travel or accommodation costs incurred
Get in touch and be part of the story, find out more and apply:
Apply Now

The Reader to present at 2017 ISPS International Psychosis Conference

The Reader to bring Shared Reading to delegates at The International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis with conference appearance and newly announced Read to Lead course dates.

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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:
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.