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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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.

Continue reading “Volunteer with The Reader in Cheshire East”

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.

Short Courses for September

MRL_5410-2Quick as a flash, September has arrived once more – and though the changeable weather might make you think otherwise, it’s generally the month that signals the start of Autumn. There’s also the fact that the holiday season is coming to a close, with schools swiftly starting up again and universities preparing for their next terms.

Though Summer may almost be over, we’re keeping its feelings going here at The Reader Organisation with the Short Courses for Serious Readers we have coming up this month in Liverpool and Birkenhead.

Far from being academic, our Short Courses for Serious Readers are specially designed for anyone who loves reading to enjoy getting to grips with texts that are a little more challenging in the company of fellow literature lovers. Over a day – or a number of weeks – we will enjoy great literature together, immersing into the texts and exploring together how reading good stuff can make us feel good too. There’s no need to do any homework – just turn up and be ready to discover.

For those of us feeling rather frazzled by the prospect of old routines reoccuring once more – or perhaps are just missing out the chilled out holiday vibe – find an escape at Read to Re-charge on Saturday 20th September, 10am-4pm at Calderstones Mansion House. Reading is a relaxing business, and we’ll be sharing the pure luxury that comes from reading for pleasure so you can have a truly idyllic time.
Places cost £30/£15 concessions: full information here

Perhaps you’re after a different pace altogether and are searching for a bit of adventure, but didn’t get the chance to jetset across the globe this summer (and let’s face it – round-the-world plane tickets aren’t cheap): you need look no further than our latest Short Course with Brian Nellist. Join The Reader magazine regular and Godfather of TRO to journey to some Far Places through some of the most classic works of literature. The first part of the two part course begins on Monday 29th September, 10.30am-12.30pm (every Monday for 10 weeks), with a special focus on Homer’s Odyssey. No need to go the extra mile when whole other worlds are at your fingertips.
Places cost £65/£35 concessions: full information here

Book your places on any of our Short Courses this coming Autumn or for the rest of the year by contacting Jenny Kelly: jenniferkelly@thereader.org.uk or call 0151 207 7207

You can find more information about any of our upcoming courses on our website. New dates for Read to Lead for 2015 have also been announced: http://www.thereader.org.uk/courses

Volunteers Week 2014: Liz’s Story

VolunteersIt’s Volunteers Week 2014, an annual event which takes place on 1st-7th June. Volunteers Week celebrates the important contribution made by millions of volunteers to organisations and businesses around the UK, with a range of events, ceremonies and campaigns running across the country during the week to value the achievements of volunteers and encourage people to take part in a volunteering project.

The Reader Organisation offers volunteering opportunities to a variety of different individuals in a number of regions that we currently work in. From sharing reading with some of the most vulnerable people in society to helping us push forward a bilingual reading revolution, all of our volunteers are supported and are a highly valued part of the Reader family.

One of our biggest volunteering projects is ongoing in Barnet, North London. We have recently built on our existing volunteer work in London with two new projects, Reading for the Brain (a project reading with people living with dementia) and Altogether Better (an intergenerational reading project). We’re currently recruiting for volunteers for these two projects in both group leader and one-to-one reading roles, with full training and support provided by TRO.

One of our current volunteers, Liz, has been sharing reading as part of the Barnet project since 2011. Starting off by reading within a community centre in Hendon, she wanted to gain a different experience of facilitation and is now reading in a Jewish Care home with residents who have differing forms of dementia. Here, she shares her story of being a volunteer faciltator with TRO.

Liz’s Story

“After my training, I began running a community group with another trainee. It was helpful to share the facilitation; alternating weekly, discussing issues that arose in the group and finding new material. We each chose poems to use in our sessions, but would short-list several books together before asking the group members’ opinions. We valued the monthly facilitator meetings – which are still ongoing – where we could share experiences and ideas with others in similar settings and have feedback from the Project Leader, Paul. As the group got to know each other, through reading and sharing ideas, they became more supportive of each other, with genuinely caring relationships. At times strong views were expressed by one particular individual, which others found challenging. As facilitators we developed ways to ‘contain’ this and the group members learned to manage the conversations themselves.

An elderly lady, J, took great pleasure in seeing friendly faces each week and the ‘work out for her brain’ as she called it. She attended each week with her daughter and on one or two occasions her grand-daughter. J at times brought poems she had written which she shared after the group. She said she enjoyed hearing the views of group members of all ages; they varied from 24 to 80. Sometimes she would arrive in physical pain and reading seemed to help distract and relax her.

I co-facilitate the Jewish Care group in Hendon with the activities co-ordinator from the home, who also trained with TRO. We only use poems, not fictional extracts or books, as they work well with the needs of the members. Over the 7 months of the group we have seen residents’ mental health change with one lady becoming very depressed and another with chronic anxiety. It helps to share facilitation with someone who is aware of the attendees’ needs and as I have got to know them, I have found the facilitation easier and attendees are benefitting more.In the residential home I have adapted my practice as a facilitator in several ways.

M has very little sight, poor short-term memory and when not in the group is very anxious and finds it hard to relax. I print the poem in as large a font as possible to fit on one or two sheets of paper and we usually read the poem through twice at the beginning, once by the facilitator and then perhaps by sighted members together. I try to read at a steady pace in a loud, clear voice, adding appropriate expression to help keep attention. Often I choose poems that have a strong visual picture to help those less sighted to imagine the ‘scene’ and connect with the poem. M always listens very carefully, laughing and showing expression on her face. She often comments about the poem after hearing it or when we re-read a line. It is especially important to pick up on this promptly as she forgets the poem and her comment quickly and can’t refer to the text as a prompt. Like others, she questions, listens to others, expresses pleasure and appears to relax throughout the session.

It has been a pleasure to see the group pay attention to each other in the short time we have for tea and cake at the beginning. This has grown as the ladies feel secure and familiar in the setting. At times I have brought in articles which relate to the poem, e.g. dishes of spices to smell or purple jewellery and scarves to pass round and feel. Passing round and commenting on items together helps interaction, however small.”

We’re currently recruiting for volunteers for our Reading for the Brain Dementia Project (Group Leaders and One-on-One roles) and our Altogether Better intergenerational Project (Group Leader roles) in Barnet. For more information, please contact Paul Higgins: paulhiggins@thereader.org.uk or call 07985 718744.

You can also find out more about volunteering in Barnet, or other areas in the UK, by visiting our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/

07985 718744

Read to Lead in London this June

books and tea reading circleAt Better with a Book in London last week, we heard the amazingly moving and inspiring stories of some of our Readers, including that of  Jennifer who after attending a shared reading group with her nan went on to train to read with older people in the care home she works at in North London. Jennifer told us how she is using literature to connect with people living with dementia, exclaiming that shared reading is ‘the best thing’ for the residents she works with, making them ‘happy’ for an hour a week.

If you would like the chance to experience the power of shared reading, and learn the skills to enable others to get closer to great literature like Jennifer has, then you can join us for our next open Read to Lead course in the capital on 4th, 11th and 18th June.

Exclusively designed by The Reader Organisation, Read to Lead is the only course that introduces you to the working practice of shared reading. Over a stimulating, inspiring and enriching three days you will discover how to use literature to its full effect in shared reading groups and learn the skills needed to start your own group within your community. Following the course you will gain access to exclusive and specially tailored Ongoing Learning provision, offering support and enabling you to further your shared reading practice.

By attending Read to Lead, you can join the hundreds of shared reading practitioners across the UK and beyond who are sharing reading week on week with some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in society, ensuring that great literature is a legacy that all of us can share in.

“I realised there was so much more to becoming a facilitator than I had ever imagined. I look forward to the group every Wednesday and sharing the role and having someone always on hand to offer guidance and support is invaluable. The residents always say they have enjoyed it and I am pleased to say the group is going from strength to strength.” – Jennifer, shared reading facilitator and Activities Coordinator at Jewish Care, North London

Our London Read to Lead course runs on 4th, 11th and 18th June (consecutive Wednesdays) at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Avenue,  WC2H 8EP.

Places on Read to Lead cost £750 per person, including access to Ongoing Learning for 12 months. We offer one concessionary place of £250 on each course, and flexible payment options are available to all.

To apply for a place or for any queries about the course, please contact Literary Learning Coordinator Jennifer Kelly on jenniferkelly@thereader.org.uk or call 0151 207 7207.

For more information about Read to Lead and Ongoing Learning, see our website.

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8EP; – See more at: http://www.thereader.org.uk/courses/read-to-lead-london-june.aspx#sthash.gLnO2ulg.dpuf

“Reading should be a big part of everybody’s life”: Better with a Book

At Better with a Book, The Reader Organisation’s National Conference, we’ll be exploring how the shared reading model pioneered by The Reader Organisation uses literature to improve mental health, stimulate emotional development, reduce social isolation and enhance quality of life. Throughout the day on Thursday 15th May in London, the practice of shared reading and its impact upon individuals, communities and organisations will be discussed in a range of illuminating sessions.

The shared reading movement is not only booming across the UK but has also travelled abroad thanks to our revolutionary training programme Read to Lead. We’ve made several visits over to Belgium to create shared reading practitioners who are furthering the Reading Revolution, and last month saw the launch of Het Lezercollectief (The Readers Collective), a cooperative network of readers  inspired by the work of The Reader Organisation.

Founder and Director of The Reader Organisation Jane Davis sent her good wishes across to Belgium, and in a specially made video Jane talks about why she feels that sharing reading and bringing literature out into the community is so vital. From her own experience of being powerfully moved and affected by literature to the extraordinary impact it is having on the lives of others – including people in isolation cells in Broadmoor Hospital – shared reading has come a long way since The Reader Organisation’s beginnings. And why does reading need to be shared aloud instead of in our heads to have such a significant effect? This question and more are answered by watching on…

Discover more about shared reading and how it works within health, education, criminal justice and community settings with Jane and guest speakers including Lord Melvyn Bragg and Baroness Estelle Morris, as well as some of our Readers and commissioners, at Better with a Book at The British Library Conference Centre in London on Thursday 15th May.

Full day delegate places (including VAT, lunch and refreshments) cost £140, and are available to book via our website, by cheque or invoice.

For more information or to inquire about the day, please contact Abigail Leader:  abigailleader@thereader.org.uk or call 0151 207 7221.