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…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oTyfue3wxQ&w=420&h=315]

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.

Volunteering with The Reader Organisation: Jennifer and Ginette’s Story

The Reader Organisation’s volunteering projects in Barnet are growing, with two new projects to spread shared reading across the area. Reading for the Brain will recruit and train volunteer facilitators to read with people living with dementia and their carers, and Altogether Better is a community project which aims to bring generations together through shared reading.

Shared reading has already been having an effect throughout Barnet, bringing communities and families closer together and igniting a deeper love of literature. Volunteer facilitator Jennifer shares her story of getting involved with the Barnet project, with her nan Ginette discovering shared reading too:

‘Make friends with a book: Get Into Reading groups give you a place to relax, a chance to make new friends and a new way to share reading with others every week. You can drop in and sit down, there’s no pressure to talk, read or even drink tea.”

The invitation sits pinned by the kitchen radio and has been there since September 2011.

I live with my grandmother. She is in her late seventies, she doesn’t like groups or socialising and at the time was suffering from depression. I suggested she went along to the reading group with a hope that she might actually enjoy it. For the few weeks leading up to the group I would occasionally bring it up.

‘So, Nanny, what do you think?’ I said, picking up the invitation. ‘It’s just around the corner.’ ‘You like reading.’ ‘It will be good for you to get out of the house.’ ‘You like tea.’ ‘I bet everyone who looked at the invitation twice is thinking the same as you.’ ‘You don’t even have to stay! Look, it says on the invitation ‘no pressure.’

‘I’ll see how I feel,’ she would say.

I came home one evening to find a two poems and a short story on the kitchen table.

‘I went to the book club today.’

I asked how it was.

‘Actually I quite enjoyed it. It was quite a surprise. I didn’t feel uncomfortable. Maybe because we were all new but I am amazed at what people are prepared to share about themselves.’

I would come home from work on a Monday and read the copies of the poems and short stories from her group and we would talk about them. She would tell me what others had said and I would read and see if I agreed or if I thought it meant something else. It could go on all evening. This happened for months. I even went along to the group on a few of my days off and I was surprised at how much I wanted to share my opinion about the literature. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

I got a new job with Jewish Care as an Activity Organiser in a residential care home. I thought it would be nice to have a reading group at Clore Manor, the home I was working at. I had been to a few of Nanny’s groups by then and it was simple; read and discuss.

I took one of Nanny’s poems from the reading group and made copies. I rounded up my most verbal residents and for a tremendously struggling 15 minutes, I tried to re-create the groups I had been to. It was so difficult I gave up and never tried again.

In July 2013 I was introduced to Paul Higgins to discuss the prospect of establishing a reading group at Clore Manor. I told him about my terrible tale and we realised that Paul was the man responsible for establishing Nanny’s reading group. I was chosen to attend the three days Read to Lead training to be able to become a shared reading facilitator. The training was brilliant. I realised there was so much more to becoming a facilitator than I had ever imagined. It wasn’t just ‘read and discuss’ at all.

The training was professional and insightful and I have now been co-facilitating a reading group for residents with dementia at Clore Manor since October 2013 along with Liz Kon who was the volunteer facilitator at my nan’s group previously.

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. Paul is also always contactable and the monthly facilitators meetings are really helpful.

I think the best thing about becoming a shared reading facilitator is mastering the skill of asking the right questions. And also how to cut people off graciously during mid-conversation. I rarely have to use it in the group but it comes in handy in other places.

Ginette, Jennifer’s grandmother:

I attend the group at Cheshire Hall on Mondays, 1.30-3.30pm. When we read sections of a book or read a poem it is fascinating how different each of us is in the group feels about what we have read. There are usually five or six of us ranging in ages from late twenties through to pensioners.

Over time we have overcome retinence to express our opinions and share our feelings and experiences. It is amazing how a few words can evoke memories, some sad, some happy. As we all get along well despite our differences it is not difficult to share our thoughts.

Monday is a day with a difference. For a short time we can relax and think of other than the normal day to day occurances, talk freely, enjoy the company of people with similar interests and have a cup of tea provided cheerfully by the facilitators. Finding it easy to express my feelings at the book club has given me the confidence to do so in other settings. And I find by doing so, other people are more willing to do so.

We are looking to recruit volunteers for both of our expanded Barnet volunteering projects. For more information on the opportunities, contact Paul Higgins on  paulhiggins@thereader.org.uk or call 07985 718744. You can also see our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/barnet

Read to Lead at Calderstones Mansion House

Reading group with smiley womanRead to Lead at Calderstones Mansion House7/8/9th April; 30th April/1st/2nd May
Calderstones Mansion House, Calderstones Park, Liverpool L18 3JD

Looking for a new start this Spring? There are two open Read to Lead courses taking place this April and May at Calderstones Mansion House which will give a fresh perspective on reading and thinking about literature.

“It’s a wonderful journey; a homecoming of sorts. I really like the motion and experience of something coming to life off the page and becoming real to the hearer in the moment. You change when you hear an extract or a poem read to you for the first time, everytime” – attendee on Read to Lead

Read to Lead is The Reader Organisation’s revolutionary course which introduces 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.

There are currently two places left on our Read to Lead course at Calderstones on 7th-9th April. Additional places are available on our second Read to Lead course at Calderstones on 30th April-2nd May. To apply for a place, please contact Literary Learning Coordinator Jennifer Kelly: jenniferkelly@thereader.org.uk or call 0151 207 7207

On recent Read to Lead courses (January 2014), 100% of attendees said that Read to Lead has been an investment in their personal wellbeing and they would recommend to a colleague.

Read to Lead costs £750 per person. This includes access to Ongoing Learning for 12 months. We offer a concessionary place of £250 on each course, and flexible payment options are available to all.

For more information about Read to Lead, please see our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/courses/read-to-lead

2013 at The Reader Organisation: A Year in Review Part 1

Calderstones Mansion House c Dave JonesIt’s been another remarkable year for the reading revolution and certainly one to remember as we began to set up home in our latest base, Calderstones Mansion House. So much has happened in the space of 12 months it’s almost hard to believe there has been time to fit everything in, so here’s the Reader Review of the first six months of 2013. More to follow tomorrow…

January

The year got off to an incredible start as TRO was awarded preferred bidder status for Calderstones Mansion House, Coach House and Stable Yard at Calderstones Park, Liverpool. Our vision for Calderstones is a community for everyone with reading at its heart, and we’re already building up the foundations of the future International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing at Calderstones with our shared reading and community event activity.

Scans of brain activity show intense electrical activity when reading challenging literature
Scans of brain activity show intense electrical activity when reading challenging literature

The work of the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS) attracted global attention with research headed by Professor Phil Davis finding that reading serious literature ‘acts like a rocket-booster to the brain’, and Read to Lead moved further afield with its first Belgian course. Reading aloud was also signified as the latest trend in an article in the Observer, which mentioned the work of TRO.

February

There was more press coverage of shared reading, this time in The Guardian as journalist Lynsey Hanley spoke about our work alongside her own experiences of finding support in fiction.

A very regal twist took place as we brought Read to Lead to Kensington Palace. Shared reading for the Queen? It could happen one day…

March

Eamee's awardThe Flemish reading revolution continued as Jane appeared at the Mind The Book festival in Antwerp, and one of our Wirral Apprentices Eamee was shortlisted for the Liverpool City Region Apprenticeship Awards, making it through a competitive shortlist to the final three for the Wirral region. Congratulations Eamee!

Elsewhere we celebrated World Read Aloud Day doing what we do best – need we say any more?

April

G31A6964After a good old tidy and the placing of some Readerly touches – including lots of cake – we opened the doors to Calderstones Mansion House for two public open days, inviting people to Connect With Us at Calderstones. We were expecting a few hundred – an amazing 1,200 people came to the Mansion House and shared their hopes, dreams and memories with us.

Our very first Shared Reading Practitioner Day happened in Liverpool, bringing qualified shared reading practitioners from across the UK together for a day of thinking, learning and, of course, reading, and we were delighted to be part of the wonderful World Book Night celebrations both as a book giver and at the Liverpool flagship event at St George’s Hall.

May

Jane and Andy 2 72dpiShared Reading for Healthy Communities, The Reader Organisation’s fourth annual conference took place in London, for a day full of considering how shared reading can contribute to building stronger, healthier and more connected communities. We welcomed our largest number of delegates to date to The British Library for a varied range of seminars and enlightening contributions from Andy Burnham MP, Professor Louis Appleby, Alan Yates and some of our shared reading group members.

There was more exciting development news as TRO was selected as one of the thirty winners of the Big Venture Challenge 2013 and teamed up with the Verbal Arts Centre in Northern Ireland, and our Reading in Secure Environments (RISE) project continued in Liverpool with visits from award winning poets John Burnside and Rita Ann Higgins.

Our first shared reading groups also got underway at Calderstones Mansion House.

June

Issue 50 cover online versionIt was a celebratory month as the beautiful, bumper 50th issue of The Reader magazine came off the press. Wishing us a happy birthday with new content were David Constantine, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Blake Morrison and Les Murray amongst many others, and we also delved into the Reader archives for a selection of gems from the previous issues. The issue received international acclaim, being called ‘magnificently rich‘ by American review website New Pages.

Jane was shortlisted alongside another inspirational Liverpool woman, Josephine Butler, at the Addidi Inspiration Awards, we brought RISE to London and Reading and read for wellbeing at the Southbank Centre, and as an organisation TRO received the PQASSO Level 1 Quality Mark.

Come back tomorrow for our Reader Review of 2013 Part 2: July-December.

From Book Break to Read to Lead: Jane’s Story

Last year, we featured the story of one of our shared reading group members in London, and how shared reading provided her with a ‘lifeboat’.  Jane, a regular reader in Kensington and Chelsea, joined us for our National Conference 2012 to give her perspective on how being part of a group made a difference to her life. More than a year on, we follow up her story as she embarks on the next step in her journey – becoming a shared reading practitioner.

Jane spoke to Megg Hewlett, one of our London Project Workers, about how far she has come:

Jane reading to an attentive audience at Baby Rhyme Time, Brompton Library
Jane reading to an attentive audience at Baby Rhyme Time, Brompton Library

For the last two years Book Break shared reading group member Jane has been volunteering at Brompton Library delivering their Baby Rhyme Time sessions on a Monday afternoon to between 30 and 50 people. It’s impossible not to be astonished by the gathering of littlies and their caregivers – mums, dads, grandparents and nannies – who gather for the session. Even the adults join in, delighting in the singing and actions that make up the half hour programme and the library vibrates with the sound of adult and children’s singing voices and laughter.

Four years ago Jane joined Book Break at Brompton Library. At the time, health difficulties had made her life a struggle. She loved her profession and working with children especially but after more than 20 years in early childhood education, a combination of factors meant she was could not work and her sense of loss was great. “Books and children had always played a huge part in my life and my work and my belief in myself was crushed.”

Jane attended Book Break every week. After a couple of years I spoke to Jane about the idea of volunteering in the library to do Baby Rhyme Time. Initially she thought there would be no way she could do it, but eventually after thinking it over she thought that maybe it was a possibility, after all, and she has been running the sessions ever since, spurred on by the personal benefits she found through shared reading.

“The confidence I found in Book Break was the thing that made me feel I could do the Baby Rhyme Time in the library. Even though attending Book Break and reading aloud in the group had boosted my confidence I was still very anxious and worried. It was a big thing to say ‘yes’ as I was still not feeling good about myself.

Once I started doing Baby Rhyme Time in the library, giving something to others made me feel much better about myself. And now, even if I do feel rubbish, I still can do it; the music is a bridge from me to the children. At the beginning of the year I moved to the other side of London so it’s quite a long journey to get here but I don’t want to stop; I enjoy it so much and the parents tell me they really appreciate it, they often thank me and it gives me a boost knowing they enjoy it and that I’m making a real contribution to other peoples lives. If I had not come to Book Break I would not be doing this now.”

Jane also volunteers at a Salvation Army lunch club for older people and each week takes the poems from Book Break to read with those people at the club who are interested. ‘This made me think what would it take for me to run my own group for older people? They seem to get so much out of it too.’

Jane found out about Read To Lead and decided to apply to attend with a view to leading her own shared reading group.

‘It was scary applying as I thought maybe I might not be good enough or it might only be for people with a degree. I spoke to a few people who encouraged me and I applied. On the day I was very nervous but I soon felt ok. I felt there was a Jane sized space for me and I thought “this is it, I’m alright here”.

Jane reading aloud at the children's rhyme session at Brompton Library
Jane reading aloud at the children’s rhyme session at Brompton Library

At the moment Jane is still running her Baby Rhyme Time group at Brompton Library every week as well as reading poems with older folk at the lunch club. However her latest big enterprise is a new group in Hoxton for children aged under five and their carers called Tots and Co. Needless to say this new group will involve lots of wonderful books and stories read aloud. Jane’s story is a testament to how the power of reading and being a part of a shared reading group can have far-reaching impacts and provide not only a way back in a life that may be lost but bring a whole new direction and sense of achievement too.

Jane’s remarkable story is just one example of many of how sharing reading can affect an individual’s life, in a small or significant way. Take a look at our collection of Reader Stories on our website to see the various stories that have emerged within our readers: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reader-stories.aspx

Interested in Reading With Us in London? You’ll find a full list of our open groups in the area, as well as across the UK on our group map: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us.aspx

Coming up in Literary Learning

As the days get shorter, we’re definitely not short of opportunities to develop your literary thinking and enjoy some enriching shared reading in great company at The Reader Organisation. In the next month there’s a new Short Course for Serious Readers with a canine theme at Calderstones Mansion House, as well as a Masterclass in Liverpool especially for Read to Lead graduates.

Read on for more of what’s on the Literary Learning calendar later this Autumn…

purebred english Bulldog in glasses and bookShort Courses for Serious Readers: A Dog’s Life
Wednesday 20th November, 10am-1pm
Calderstones Mansion House, Calderstones Park, Liverpool

£15; £10 concessions (Get Into Reading members/income support/students/pensioners)

Loyalty and unconditional love are amongst the important reasons why humans love dogs. From Homer to Hardy, we will read a wide variety of poetry and prose exploring the uncomplicated nature of the human-dog relationship. In this special half-day Short Course for Serious Readers, we will think about our need for joy, companionship and affection and the literary dogs that have seriously valuable lessons to teach about life, love and loss.

Our Short Courses for Serious Readers are perfect for anyone who loves literature to rediscover reading classics in a relaxed setting, allowing you to immerse yourself in texts with guidance from experts and the company of like-minded people. Take a morning for yourself and take a break from life to enjoy some great literature.

Find out more about our Short Courses for Serious Readers on the Courses section of our website. There are a final few places available for ‘The Test of the Sea’ Short Course this coming Saturday 26th October, 10am-4pm at Calderstones Mansion House, where we’ll be reading Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. See our website for all the information on how to book or contact sophiejohnson@thereader.org.uk

November’s Masterclass

MRL_5280‘And Yet the Books’: Reading in Library and Community Settings
Monday 18th November, 5-8pm
Liverpool Central Library

As part of Ongoing Learning, Read to Lead graduates can join us for this special evening Masterclass in Liverpool, focusing on shared reading in library and community settings. Join Helen Wilson to discuss all aspects of shared reading these settings, ranging from publicity and techniques for recruitment to group dynamics and ‘going deeper’ in sessions.

Masterclasses are special sessions exclusively for those who have completed the Read to Lead course and wish to improve their practice as a facilitator and deepen their understanding as a reader, a vital part of Ongoing Learning in the practice of shared reading.

Places on this Masterclass are free within your first year of Ongoing Learning; otherwise they cost £25.
Contact Literary Learning Coordinator Sophie Johnson to reserve your place, and if you wish, request a particular topic for discussion: sophiejohnson@thereader.org.uk
Keep up-to-date on our latest Courses at any time by visiting the Courses section on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/courses.aspx
You can also find out more about what’s going on in the world of Literary Learning by following us on Twitter (@thereaderorg) or liking us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thereaderorg