Introducing…The Reader Magazine blog!

reader-54-web-coverWhen you’ve read your trusty copy of The Reader magazine cover to cover, are you often thirsting for more literary goodness? Perhaps there’s a poem, short story or feature article that has got you enthused and you want to say more about it?

Well now you can get even more from between the pages as we’re happy to announce that The Reader has gone online with a brand new blog dedicated to bringing readers even closer to quality literature and the wealth of thinking behind it.

Of course you’ll still be able to enjoy the pleasures of ink on paper – Issue 54 is hot off the press and physical copies can be ordered from The Reader Organisation’s website as well as in a selection of bookshops around the UK, including Waterstones Liverpool One – but now if you’ve read something that’s moved, vexed or roused you or you’re simply keen for more of the same, just a few clicks and it will all be at your fingertips.

A spirit of sharing has always been at the heart of The Reader since its first publication in 1997, and the blog gives the perfect opportunity to take that idea further. Online you’ll find a range of additional articles and features to enliven the print version of the magazine with further discussion and audio, though it is intended that the content will also stand alone for readers who prefer their reading in pixels.

The Reader blog is already brimming with topical content available for you to read at your leisure, and with a particular focus on the current hot issue of reading in prisons. Author and TRO patron Erwin James‘s powerful essay detailing the profound effect a book on French artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus had on the state of his mind during his time in prison is available in full – and already gaining a remarkable response from readers online:

An amazing journey of hope, the strength of the human spirit and commitment to personal change.

Following Erwin’s story – and the many other stories that say that reading really does make a difference to prisoners – contributors from Issue 54 including Shauneen Lambe, Sean Elliot and Margaret Drabble recommend the books they would give to a friend in prison exclusively for The Reader blog.

The blog is also where we’ll be building up an archive of poetry readings, our first additions coming from poet and regular Reader contributor Julie-ann Rowell reading two selections from her work.

So much to get you reading already, all to be found on

Don’t forget that you can delve into The Reader archives by purchasing your vintage copies from the website, as well as subscribing for your regular dose of Readerly goodness:


Giving books in Wormwood Scrubs

The first Book Room at Wormwood Scrubs, set up by Give A Book
The first Book Room at Wormwood Scrubs, set up by Give A Book

The debate on books in prisons is still a burning issue since months after the announcement of rules to ban prisoners from receiving books through the post. A petition to get the ban overturned – supported by The Reader Organisation – has received over 28,000 signatures, and there have been various campaigns, including the very active #booksforprisoners hashtag on Twitter which highlights the reformative power of literature.

Our work sharing reading in prisons and other criminal justice settings around the UK demonstrates how literature can have a massive impact on the lives of prisoners and ex-offenders. The sharing of personal experiences through books offers opportunities for prison reform, rehabilitation and prevention of further crime, as well as improving health and wellbeing, increasing confidence and providing the chance for self-reflection. Simply put, our work with people such as N shows what effect reading has on opening up prisoners’ lives outside of their cells:

“You hear a lot of chat about people’s crimes in this place.  In this room we’re talking about other things, so many other things.  And we’re listening to each other.  I’ve learned that we’re all essentially the same.”

(Read N’s story in full on our website)

Our friends from Give A Book, who facilitate the gifting of books to charities, organisations and people who need them the most, have recently set up a new Book Room in HMP Wormwood Scrubs. The room is designed to support the existing library within the prison, encouraging prisoners to read recreationally in an informal setting.

The Book Room has proved immensely popular since its opening, with an influx of donations of great literature from sources including Granta, English PEN and Cambridge Literary Festival. There has also been some great feedback from the prisoners on the wing, which you can read on the Give A Book blog.

There are plans to open a Book Room on all wings of the prison, and it’s a fantastic initiative which The Reader Organisation wholeheartedly supports. Congratulations to all at Give A Book for the success of the Book Room and best of luck for it continuing!

You’ll also find more about the subject of books in prisons in Issue 54 of The Reader magazine, which is out now. Writer and patron of The Reader Organisation Erwin James writes about how the power of a good book gave shape to a profound dream he had while he was in prison, and this issue’s interview is with campaigning barrister and director of Just for Kids Law Shauneen Lambe, who speaks about her work with prisoners on death row in Louisiana.

You can buy your copy of The Reader magazine in Waterstones Liverpool One and a range of other stockists around the UK, or online via our website, where you’ll also be able to purchase a year long subscription for the UK, abroad or institutions:

“You hear a lot of chat about people’s crimes in this place.  In this room we’re talking about other things, so many other things.  And we’re listening to each other.  I’ve learned that we’re all essentially the same.” – See more at:

Enjoying a Book A Day

If you’re a regular tweeter, you might have seen the #BookADay hashtag pop up in those trending topics since the beginning of June. A certain global competition has taken over in recent days (although, there are a number of titles that embrace the beautiful game – including Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby), but there’s still lots of tweet activity to be found relating to the wide and wonderful world of literature…

Alas, it’s not a declaration of a mammoth feat of devouring a whole book in the space of 24 hours, but still a very impressive celebration of reading. For the 30 days of June, Borough Press is asking people to tweet their Book A Day, with each day devoted to a different topic.

So far, the challenge has covered favourite book from childhood, a book that you have more than one copy of and a book that reminds you of someone you love. Just those topics could make us think for weeks, never mind days!

If you haven’t already been involved in Book A Day, there’s still time to take part – just look up the day’s topic (there’s a full list below) and add #BookADay to your tweet to join in the conversation with literary lovers across the world.

Today’s topic is ‘Makes me laugh’ – tons to choose from, surely selections from Roald Dahl and P.G. Wodehouse must be up there amongst many others (and of course, The Globe’s production of Much Ado About Nothing will be making us laugh at the Garden Theatre not once, but twice today)…why not share yours?


And don’t forget, you can share what you’re reading with us at any time on our Twitter account: @thereaderorg


Sharing literature the Little Free Library way

2014-06-01 15.09.56At The Reader Organisation we’re all about sharing literature, whether it be in our weekly shared reading groups or reading poems together in our staff meetings and regular staff Think Days, and another idea is helping to spread the love of reading in communities across the world in a way that makes the most of great books and the surrounding environment.

The Little Free Library originated in Wisconsin, America as a testimony to reading. From a small start, the popularity of Little Free Libraries has grown and there’s now a World Map of them collated, with a total of 15,000 the latest conservative estimate. All the Little Free Libraries are unique, small but perfectly formed and united in an overall mission to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide, while also building a strong sense of community in the sharing not only of books but skills, creativity and wisdom across generations. All values that we wholeheartedly agree with!

Little Free Libraries can be found in all manner of places, working on the concept of ‘take a book, return a book’. Visitors of the Little Free Library are also encouraged to bring back another book to donate and contribute to the collection.

lflAnd it turns out that some Little Free Libraries have popped up close to where TRO are based…London’s first Little Free Library has been set up on Powerscroft Road, Clapton in the Borough of Hackney, for both adults and children to participate able to choose from an eclectic selection of books. Other Little Free Libraries have since followed suit, with more book swaps appearing around the capital, including one in Walthamstow on Coppermill Lane. One of our London Team Reader-in-Residences Megg lives close by and snapped some wonderful pictures which show just how cute the Library is.

Also, very near to our base at Calderstones Mansion House is where you’ll find the Little Free Library of Liverpool. Set up by Andy Pearson and his daughter, the Library offers a community book swap with a rather full collection (though they’re always looking for more donations). The popularity of the Little Free Library means that there’s plenty of chances for more Libraries to be set up across the city, but do check them out if you’re in the area: you’ll find them on 14 Middlefield Road, Allerton, or you can check out their blog:

Here’s to many more Little Free Libraries in the future!

A couple of literary treats

pillowOver the last couple of days we’ve been sent some links on Twitter that have sparked the literary love within us (although it’s always burning strong), and as they received a lot of interest from our followers too we thought we’d share them here on The Reader Online as well.

Most of us curl up with a good book each night before bed,  and it can be a wrench to have to put them down in order to go to sleep. Now there is a solution – at least if you’re currently reading Alice in Wonderland, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or Treasure Island. These wonderful book pillows will ensure that you have sweet literary dreams, and will also have something very close on hand to read when you’re suffering bouts of insomnia. If you’re intrigued, they’re available to buy from ThinkGeek.

Elsewhere, Brain Pickings has a wonderful range of vintage advertisements for books. It seems like the Reading Revolution started long ago…











You can see the full selection on the Brain Pickings website.

The Reading Revolution in North Wales

We’re delighted to say that shared reading is spreading even further across the UK – new projects are getting underway in South London and shortly, in Wiltshire – and The Reader Organisation is settling into one of its new bases in North Wales, where we’ve been working on our Big Lottery Wales funded project to develop Get Into Reading across the region. Since this September, the first of our shared reading groups have been running in North Wales, in both English and Welsh speaking groups. They’re heading up the Reading Revolution in North Wales, and within 3 years we will establish over 30 groups assisted by over 70 volunteers.

Each week we’re reading with people of all ages across North Wales, offering great literature read aloud to adults and children. One of our weekly groups is in Colwyn Bay Library, where we recently took part in Welsh Libraries ‘Get Reading, Get Better, Get Libraries’ event. Take a look at how our shared reading taster session at the library helped people at Colwyn Bay to feel better for a morning:


If you’re in North Wales, then you can enjoy some shared reading on a weekly basis with our Llais a Llfyr/Make Friends With A Book groups in libraries across Wales, including Colwyn Bay Library (Thursdays, 3.30-5pm), Buckley Library (Mondays, 12.30-2pm) and Rhyl Library (Thursdays, 1.30-3pm), where in recent weeks we’ve been enjoying stories including The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Nightingale by Tobias Woolf and something spooky by Bram Stoker (during a rather windswept and watery day…!).

All groups are free to attend, and you can enjoy a story and some poems with good company, biscuits and tea. One of our group members in Rhyl has already been noticing the benefits of shared reading as a highlight of her week, saying:

“It’s a hiatus of calm in my day”

Take a look at the days and times of all the Make Friends With A Book groups that are currently running on our Reading With Us group map:

You can find out more about our North Wales project on our website, by liking The Reader Organisation North Wales on Facebook or giving a follow on Twitter: @TheReaderNWales

‘Magnificently rich’: The Reader reviewed

Issue 50 cover online versionAfter its release in the summer, we’re still celebrating the landmark 50th issue of The Reader magazine thanks to a review from American review and resource website New Pages. Based in Michigan, New Pages provides news, information and guides to literary magazines, independent publishers and bookstores, alternative newsweeklies and much more, describing itself as the ‘Portal of Independents’ spanning across the world of arts, publishing and libraries.

Our bumper Issue 50 has been reviewed in their latest round-up of literary magazines (dated November 15th), standing alongside publications such as The Asian American Literary Review and The Gettysburg Review. The issue was praised for its historic pieces of literature and items from the archive alongside new offerings where ‘new ideas sparkle under the crystalline canon.’ Despite some UK-centric articles needing a little more translation, the rich and varied literary content within crosses the divide, as reviewer Mary Florio states:

The ideas cross the ocean with a stunning virtuosity; it is a prized volume to be read again and again.

Cited as particular highlights are Godfather of The Reader Organisation and co-editor Brian Nellist’s essay ‘People Don’t Read Scott Any More’, originally published in the very first issue of The Reader in 1997 and republished in Issue 50 as a gem from The Reader archive, and Dr Rowan Williams’ poem Tolstoy at Astapovo, which ‘glows on the page with a kind of phosphoric rhythm’. The review finishes with a succinct appreciation of the publication:

Take it sentence by sentence. The journal is magnificently rich and does not “dumb down” literary engagement. And for all the promise of reward, it delivers.

You can read New Pages review of Issue 50 of The Reader in full here.

Issue 52 of The Reader will be arriving shortly, offering an antidote to the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle. Highlights include:

  • Poetry from John Burnside, Michael Schmidt, Carol Rumens, Jodie Hollander and Martyn Halsall
  • Exciting and striking new fiction from Jennifer O’Hagan and Gregory Heath
  • We are treated to Five Helpings of  George Herbert from distinguished guests including John Scrivener and David Constantine
  • The late Seamus Heaney is celebrated in two essays by Iona Heath and Carol Rumens
  • Iraq War veteran and author of the acclaimed novel The Yellow Birds Kevin Powers is interviewed by Drummond Moir

Discover the reward of great literature for yourself – issue 50 of The Reader can be purchased on our website, alongside issues from the back catalogue. Readers in the UK and abroad can also subscribe to receive a year’s worth of copies – four issues over 12 months. The perfect Christmas present for literature enthusiasts – buy your subscription for someone today:

Reading for pleasure puts children ahead in the classroom

068A new study has found that children who regularly read for pleasure are more likely to perform significantly better in school subjects than their peers who read less.

The research by the Institute of Education at University of London is the first study of its kind to examine the effects of reading for pleasure on the cognitive development of children over time. Researchers discovered that children who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10-16 when compared with those who rarely read. The reading behaviour of 6,000 young people was analysed, as were the test scores of children from the same social backgrounds at ages 5 and 10. The study discovered that children who read books often at age 10 and more than once a week at age 16 gained higher results in all three ability tests at age 16 than those who read less regularly.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery of the research is that a child’s own reading for pleasure was found to have a greater effect on cognitive development between the ages of 10-16 than their parents’ level of education. The effect of reading books often paired with going to the library regular and reading newspapers at the age of 16 made four times the difference to progress in school than the advantage gained from having a parent with a degree.

Dr Alice Sullivan, one of the researchers who carried out the study, noted:

“It may seem surprising that reading for pleasure would help to improve children’s maths scores. But it is likely that strong reading ability will enable children to absorb and understand new information and affect their attainment in all subjects.”

060All of The Reader Organisation’s projects with children and young people are focused on reading books for pleasure. We work both in schools in Liverpool, Wirral and Scotland fostering a love for reading, as well as in one-to-one sessions within and outside of the classroom. Our aims are to develop a life-long love of reading for pleasure in children and young people and to create a culture of shared reading amongst parents, carers and teachers. We’re developing a reading for pleasure revolution with teachers of the future at Liverpool Hope University, so the news that reading for pleasure makes a real difference to pupils is something we’re welcoming.

Many of the children and young people we read with on a regular basis have gained a number of positive effects from regular reading for pleasure. W, a looked-after child with learning difficulties is just one of them:

When I first started reading one to one with him, his reading ability seemed so low that I felt concerned about finding a book that would be appropriate for his age as well as his ability. As it happened, in our first meeting I had taken the book Skellig, by David Almond, which I had almost written off as being too difficult for him. However, he liked the cover, so I thought, well, let’s give it a go. I started reading it to W, and almost immediately, he was hanging off every word. He was just soaking up the story, and watching my face – I wondered if he had ever been read to before.

We have a reading ‘trick’ now, where W, when he is reading, follows the words with his finger and taps under words he doesn’t know. I then whisper the word to him, and he repeats it and continues with his reading. His reading is getting better and better, and his vocabulary is widening – but what is more important in our sessions is his enjoyment of the book. W is expressing more and more feeling and thought through the book.

W’s story shows that not only does reading for pleasure have an measurable effect on ability and comprehension, but it is first and foremost a fun and enjoyable activity that enhances a child’s confidence and brings out more of themselves.

Read W’s Reader Story in full, along with others about some of the children and young people we read with, on our website, where you can also discover more about our projects in education settings across the UK.

RISE – Reading in Secure Environments

Since launching in October 2012, the Reading in Secure Environments (RISE) project has collaborated with seven literature festivals across the UK to bring a number of contemporary writers of excellence to both public audiences and to readers in secure criminal justice and mental health settings.

Funded by the Arts Council, RISE has taken live literary experiences to people who could not otherwise experience them, connecting different audiences to great literature and one another – and has had great impacts on audiences, staff and authors involved, as recently explored at our National Conference 2013, Shared Reading for Healthy Communities.

The first year of RISE has been charted in a film by filmmaker Julian Langham, who visited the RISE Liverpool events in May in conjunction with Writing on the Wall. The film details what RISE is about, the effect it has had on its audiences and features contributions from RISE authors including John Burnside, Jean Sprackland, Joe Dunthorne and Inua Ellams.

You can view the film below, and also on the RISE page on our website. To read more about RISE, including insights from the RISE events and comments from the authors, visit our RISE blog.

[vimeo w=500&h=281]

RISE – Reading In Secure Environments from Julian Langham on Vimeo.

Recommended Reads for Children: From The Willoughby Book Club

As schools across the UK get ready to go on their summer holidays, are you looking for a ton of great books to keep the kids entertained as well as get their imaginations firing? Then our Recommended Reads for Children series is here to help.

For a special summer bonanza, we have a guest post from Adam and Chloe a.k.a The Willoughby Book Club, an independent book club dedicated to encouraging and promoting the idea of reading for pleasure that has tons of books to offer – including a great range of children’s selections. Just recently they donated just under 100 new books to start our young person’s library at Calderstones Mansion House – which our Caldies Creatives kids have been loving!

Here, they list their top 10 book recommendations for babies, toddlers and big kids alike (some of which you may already recognise as  TRO favourites), so take a seat, get comfy and read on – over to Adam and Chloe!

i want my hat back 1. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (Walker Books; 2011)

At Book Club HQ, we’re absolute suckers for great illustration…so it’s no surprise that we adore ‘I Want My Hat Back’ by the brilliant John Klassen. It’s a simple story with a simple structure, but more importantly, it’s packed full of beautifully crafted artwork that you and your little ones can enjoy over and over again.

Just one word of advice though. Don’t ever steal a hat belonging to a very large bear…

Age range: 2-5 years

Top tip: To double your hat-based fun, pick up a copy of Jon’s follow up ‘This is Not My Hat’…

mr peek2. Mr. Peek and the Misunderstanding At The Zoo by Kevin Waldron (Templar Publishing; 2008) 

We love Mr. Peek. In fact, we probably love him more than Mrs Peek does.

One morning, Mr. Peek puts on what he thinks is his favourite jacket to start his rounds as local zookeeper… but something is amiss. This morning, his jacket feels a little tighter than usual…

Kevin Waldron’s book works equally brilliantly as an independent read for older toddlers or as a story for parents to share with even younger readers. The text is easily readable, with size and graphic design used to highlight the importance and nature of key words. In short, we think it’s a winner!

Age range: 2-5 years

Top tip: Keep your eye out for little Jimmy in every illustration along the way…

knight night3. Knight Night by Owen Davey (Templar Publishing; 2013)

By this point, you might have spotted the running theme with our selections. And if you haven’t, we’ll tell you…they’re all fantastically illustrated.

Knight Night begins with a little boy with a colander on his head, but quickly moves into a magical world of knights, dragons, castles and mountains. Reading on, we follow our young knight on his journey as he prepares for one of life’s biggest and most unwelcome challenges…going to bed.

Age range: 1-4 years (but big knights can still enjoy it!)

Top tip: Look out for Owens latest children’s book ‘Laika’, which will be released later this year.

little miss bronte4. Little Miss Bronte: Jane Eyre by Jennifer Adams (Gibbs Smith; 2012)

It’s never too early to introduce your little bookworms to the classics – particularly when they’re as beautifully produced as Jane Eyre, from the BabyLit™ range of literary board books.

This ingenious counting book uses ideas, characters and key themes from the original novel to encourage young readers in their numerical development. There are even a handful of quotes from the original text thrown in to keep Mum & Dad engaged…it’s win-win!

Right, where were we? 1 Governess, 2 trunks, 3 candles…

Age range: 0-3 years

Top tip: If you enjoyed Jane Eyre, check out the rest of the BabyLit™ range of classics

orange pear apple bear5.Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett (Macmillan Children’s Books; 2007)

We simply had to find a spot in our top 10 for our all time favourite baby book, Orange Pear Apple Bear.

Why is it our favourite? Well, we’ll tell you. Because, aside from the stunningly produced watercolour illustrations throughout, it also manages to turn a potentially complicated subject area – the correct use of punctuation – into a literary treat for you and baby.

And if a baby book about punctuation doesn’t float your boat, just trust us…you won’t be disappointed. And neither will your little one.

Age range: 0-3 years

Top tip: For a little extra fun, introduce some real fruit to the reading!

this is london6. This is… by Miroslav Sasek (Universe Publishing; 2004)

Ok, so we’re cheating here slightly. In at No. 6 is the classic ‘This is…’ series by Miroslav Sasek – and in particular, the London, New York and Paris editions.

These books were first introduced in 1959, and have been painstakingly updated for a modern day audience. Sasek’s sophisticated, elegant and utterly unique illustrations introduce young readers to the most famous and iconic landmarks from each city, guiding them effortlessly from place to place and teaching them a range of important facts along the way.

Age range: 4+ years

Top tip: Why stop here? You can also explore Edinburgh, Venice and Hong Kong…even The Moon

esio trot7. Esio Trot by Roald Dahl (Puffin; 2013)

We couldn’t compile a list of our favourite children’s books without including something by the fantastic Mr. Dahl.

It was a very difficult choice…but after much deliberation, we decided to plump for the marvellous Esio Trot. We’re recommending this book partly because it’s a warm-hearted tale of elderly romance that everybody can enjoy, but more importantly, because it includes tortoises. Any story based around tortoises is OK by us.

Age range: 5+ years

Top tip: If your neighbour has tortoises, don’t try this at home…

the storm maker8. The Storm Maker by Alex Williams (Macmillan Children’s Books; 2008)

Here at The Willoughby Book Club, we were introduced to the wonderful world of Alex Williams’ children’s novels last year, and haven’t looked back…

Our personal favourite is ‘The Storm Maker’ – which follows the amazing adventures of Madeline and Rufus Breeze, descendents of a long-line of “fantabulous fanmakers” whom have been keeping people cool for many, many years. Unfortunately, all isn’t well in the wonderful world of the Breeze family business, and their home is under threat…that is unless they can come up with a cunning plan!

Age range: 9+ years

Top tip: Once you’ve finished ‘The Storm Maker’, pick up a copy of ‘The Talent Thief’…

the haunting of hiram9. The Haunting of Hiram by Eva Ibbotson (Macmillan Children’s Books; 2009)

When Alex can no longer afford to keep his family home (which happens to be a haunted castle), he sells it to a rich Texan oil tycoon named Mr. Hopgood. There is however, one teeny-weeny stipulation…the castle must be free of all its resident ghosts.

Can Alex persuade the local ghouls to leave for good? Will the castle be dismantled and shipped to America successfully? And just who are the unsavoury characters trying to get to Mr. Hopgood’s money?

There’s only one way to find out…

Age range: 9+ years

Top tip: If ghouls & ghosts aren’t usually your thing, give it a try – you’ll love it and that’s a promise!

not bad for a bad lad10. Not Bad for a Bad Lad by Michael Morpurgo (Templar Publishing; 2012)

Our final recommendation is ‘Not Bad for a Bad Lad’ by the undeniably brilliant Michael Morpurgo.

There’s not much hope for the local ‘bad lad’ when he leaves school at 14 and arrives at the doors of Hollesley Prison. But not everybody have written him off just yet. Mr Alfie, the Stable Manager, offers him the chance to look after the horses, and to save himself from a future life of crime…

It’s heart-warming, uplifting and at a little under 100 pages, a fairly quick (but hugely enjoyable) read.

Age range: 7+ years

Top tip: Try and pick up a copy with Michael Foreman’s breathtaking illustrations…

Thanks to The Willoughby Book Club for sharing their Top Ten Recommended Reads for Children with us – there’s a lot to get reading, for all ages!

To find out more about The Willoughby Book Club, visit their website. Alternatively, you can follow them on Twitter  or via their Facebook page.

You can also find choices from our regular Recommending Reader for Children Marianne in our Recommended Reads for Children category here on The Reader Online.