Reading Around The World

Photo by George Henton/Al Jazeera
Photo by George Henton/Al Jazeera

Our Reading Revolution has started to go global, and it’s time to round off the week in reading with a couple of reading related stories from around the world.

In Turkey, a real Reading Revolution is emerging amidst scenes of unrest – the Taksim Square Book Club has formed, thanks to the example of the ‘Standing Man’ a.k.a. Turkish performance artist Erdem Gunduz, who stood silently, hands in pockets, for eight hours. People have taken this stance and merged it with the reading and informational activities active since the earliest days of the Taksim Square protests to adopt a new form of reading resistance. The book choices  – including Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell, Leaf Storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Myth of Sisyphus by French author Albert Camus – reflect the feelings and attitudes of those protesting, coming as a great show of quiet contemplation coupled with social awareness and a desire to change.

Read more and see pictures from the Taksim Square Book Club on Book Patrol and Al Jazeera.

BiblioburroOver in Colombia, schoolteacher Luis Soriano has become a reading hero, along with his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto. Together they make up the Biblioburro – a travelling library which brings books far and wide, into some of the poorest rural villages of the Magdalena Department. Biblioburro has been operating since 1990, when Luis was inspired to set it up after witnessing the power literature had on his students, many who had experienced conflict at an early age. Starting with 70 books, Biblioburro now has a selection of 4,200 titles, housed in a free library that Luis and his wife Diana built next to their home. Only three volumes have gone missing from Bibiloburro in all this time – and it continues to receive donations from all four corners of the world.

Find out more about Biblioburro – if you speak Spanish! – on the Biblioburro Facebook page.

Do you know of any other incredible literature projects from around the world? We’d love to hear about them – leave a comment, Tweet or Facebook us.

We love the Willoughby Book Club!

Willoughby Book Club 2We’re beginning the task of linings the shelves at Calderstones Mansion House with lots of brilliant books for our new shared reading groups there, and just the other week we began to build our young people’s library through a mammoth donation from the Willoughby Book Club, an independent book gift service run by the ‘Willoughby Book Worms’ Adam and Chloe Pollard.

Based in a tiny village in South Leicestershire, the Willoughby Book Club offers a range of book subscriptions for readers of all ages and interests, tailoring orders to individual reading preferences, allowing recipients to get their hands on books they’re bound to love. Adam and Chloe started the book club as a means of sharing their lifelong passion of great literature and beautifully bound books, and to help encourage and promote the idea of reading for pleasure – something we’re definitely on board with here at The Reader Organisation.

Willoughby Book Club 1Since setting up in 2012, the Willoughby Book Club has gone from strength to strength, partnering with Book Aid International and being featured in The Guardian’s ‘best subscription gifts’ for Christmas 2012. Now we’re delighted that they’re supporting our work at Calderstones by providing us with a donation of just under 100 books to be used in our new young person’s library and our new Saturday morning reading groups for young people aged 8-13 at the Mansion House. The books will certainly be put to good use, inviting young people in the community around Calderstones to read for pleasure and share in the many joys that books bring – a goal that we share with the Willoughby Book Club.

Stay tuned for more from the Willoughby Book Club and Calderstones in the coming months! You can find out more about the book club by visiting the Willoughby Book Club website, Twitter, Facebook page and Tumblr blog.

Merry Christmas from The Reader Organisation

We’re sure most of you are wide awake by now, delving into your stockings and already filling up on festive food, so from all of us at The Reader Organisation, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Hopefully, Father Christmas will have left you some fantastic books underneath your tree (perhaps even some of our Best Reads of 2012 or the Books We’d Like To Find Under The Tree…). But we wonder whether for sheer bookish brilliance or otherwise just a very impressive way of recycling, the Christmas tree below can possibly be topped…?


And a Christmas wish from The Reader Online just wouldn’t be complete without some seasonal poetry, so once you’ve unwrapped all your presents and tucked into your Christmas dinner, why not share this lovely poem around the table – one of our favourites from A Little, Aloud by Thomas Hardy:

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Glad tidings to one and all – and Happy Reading for the New Year!

Homebaked: Building a community bakery…with books too!

If there’s one thing we love as much as great literature at The Reader Organisation, it’s great food – if anything rivals the smell of new books, then it’s the smell of freshly baked bread. Food is one of the things in life that can really unite communities in the sharing of something fundamentally good for us, bringing people together in a very similar way that sharing reading does (and no Get Into Reading group would be complete without something to munch on!)

A local community-owned bakery not too far from our HQ in Liverpool is helping to put good, home baking back into the heart of Anfield. Homebaked, situated by Liverpool Football Ground, was formerly Mitchell’s Bakery and was one of the last remaining independent amenities in the area until it closed in 2010. Now the bread is set to rise again, as a group of residents have turned it into a community-owned business and self-build housing project. With the support of artist Jeanne van Heeswjik, Homebaked has become an integral part of the 2Up2Down project, which has created a new vision for the area, refurbishing the bakery and two adjacent houses.

Yet Homebaked is much more than just a business – it will be a meeting place at the heart of the community, offering baking sessions, apprenticeships and training, as well as lots of yummy food that will be served straight on the street to those football fans enjoying a day at the match. Plus, it’s also a place where reading is shared as well as bread – since September, we’ve been running a weekly ‘Books at the Bakery‘ group at Homebaked, bringing reading aloud to feed the heart and soul.

Currently, Homebaked are raising money to buy a much-needed new oven to sustain the project and keep the good food and good service coming. They’re crowdsourcing donations through Kickstarter for the oven that will be the heart of Anfield, and a couple of nights ago were featured on Granada Reports (those of you watching on the TV may have noticed the familiar face of our very own Jane Davis outside Anfield…). As a special Christmas treat, those who donate before 25th December will receive a festive PDF from Homebaked.

Let’s keep the ovens burning – and books sharing!

Books at the Bakery runs weekly, Tuesdays from 10.30am-12pm at Homebaked, 197-199 Oakfield Road, L4 0UF. For more information, contact Roisin on or call 0151 207 7207 – or turn up in the New Year!

Shakespeare: Still current?

From Niall Gibney, Community Development Assistant

Hi blog readers!

I was shown this video by a colleague (our Volunteer Assistant Danny) and basically it is a young UK grime/rap artist – Akala – explaining the similarities between rap and poetry – in particular, Shakespeare. I feel it goes a good way to explaining away the stereotypes, all spoken eloquently in a non-condescending way. It’s definitely worth a watch: he speaks about education and knowledge. He raps some of Shakespeare’s most famous poems over a speedy grime beat and also raps two different lyrics towards the end, one mentioning all of the 27 plays Shakespeare wrote and another mentioning his most famous quotes.

All in all, it’s worth watching so you have our permission to put down the book and click play 😉

[youtube] Book Reviews with Character

Getting children involved and engaged with the wonder of reading is something we’re particularly passionate about at The Reader Organisation, and we’re reaching young people with literature in many ways – from holding weekly Magical Storytime song and story sessions for under 5’s in Liverpool to fuelling kids’ creativity and imagination in The Peculiar Pop-Up Story Shop; reading in schools and one-on-one on a weekly basis with young people and compiling an enchanting read-aloud anthology full of classic and modern fiction and poetry for children to read aloud and share with each other. Any way children can get into reading is good news to us!

That’s why we’re loving – an online video channel full of children’s book reviews brought to you by a range of wild, wacky and wonderful characters and Carl himself, a manager at Wallasey Village Library who is on a mission to make reading fun for children and young people. These collection of characters certainly are that…!

Take a look at the video explaining just what CarlOnTV is all about…


Carl and some of his characters have also been delving into A Little, Aloud for Children – see what Pippa and Grandpa Joe make of the book over on the A Little, Aloud blog…

Lemn Sissay: Sparking the nation’s imagination

Our visual representation of the story of Spark Catchers – pride of place in the TRO HQ kitchen…

It’s fair to say that the country, and in fact the whole world, is currently gripped by Olympic fever and while many of us at The Reader Organisation are partial to several of the sporting events, we’re particularly fascinated by the poetry that is playing a substantial part in the 2012 Games. In this week’s Communications Team meeting we shared the very intriguing Spark Catchers, the poem written especially for London 2012 by TRO patron and 2012 Conference guest speaker Lemn Sissay. It certainly sparked off some interesting thoughts and discussion (and is also currently being displayed against a flaming background of coloured paper reminiscent of both the Olympic flame and the London 2012 logo in the TRO HQ kitchen, in a small tribute to the way in which the poem is etched in the Olympic Park itself)…

It’s good to hear that it’s not just us at The Reader Organisation who have been ignited by the poem – it has also inspired ‘Sparked’, an educational exhibition series that took place at The View Tube, a new social enterprise and community venue located adjacent to the Olympic Park. The series ran from October 2011-May 2012 and involved some brilliant art workshops as well dynamic public readings of the poem by Lemn himself. You can take an overview of all the fun that happened as part of the project at the View Tube Art: Sparked Tumblr site.

Have a listen to Lemn talk about the story behind Spark Catchers:


Spark Catchers is part of the Winning Words Poetry Archive, the project that intends to highlight the inspirational role of poetry alongside the Olympic Games. In a Q&A with The Guardian, William Sieghart, compiler of the Winning Words poetry anthology, talks about how “an appropriate poem can be more helpful than many forms of therapy” – a sentiment that is firmly expressed within our weekly Get Into Reading groups.

Rap…or Poetry?

From Niall Gibney, Community Development Assistant


What do you think? Is this rap or is this poetry? I’m a young lad who is much more interested in lyrics and music than I am in 300 year old poems. I’m not in the minority when I say that either. Of course ‘gangster rap’, which is the music of choice for most of our country’s urban youth, is not the best as it glamorises western commercialism, violence, a certain attitude towards women and so on and so forth…Realistically though if the mainstream were to replace the meaningless rap which we have today for a different revolutionary style of rap with positive words over a beat which makes the younger (or older) person still feel ‘cool’ and instead of sitting on the back of the bus with their hood up singing the latest Jay Z and Kanye West song’s with lyrics such as:

 “Tears on the mauseoleum floor, Blood stains the coliseum doors, Lies on the lips of a priest, Thanksgiving disguised as a feast, Rollin’ in the Rolls-Royce Corniche, Only the doctors got this, I’m hidin’ from police, Cocaine seats, All white like I got the whole thing bleached, Drug dealer chic”

they could be listening along to lyrics which make them think about their current situation, and how to change it.

When you’re impressionable like that – I’m thinking of me for example when I was 17 or 18, this music, when mixed in with the street life you live which is so different than most of our mainstream society –and it is YOU who are the underclass that gets villainised on the News and in the Media in general, for what? Because you wear Nike trainers? Because you have short hair? Should we change ourselves in the hope we get accepted by a new section of society while turning our backs on what we know? And at the same time our own family and life-long friends? The fact is the way we are is in our culture the same way tossing a caber is in a Scotch man’s culture – But this particular and very new section of our culture could be turned from a negative one in to a positive one. We don’t need to be given pollution to listen to do we? We need jobs! We need a real chance of getting on the property ladder! We need free University level education! Not nine grand a year – who do I know that can afford that? Even if it is a loan, a loan is debt, and debt is slavery. Why do the people at the top want to flood impressionable minds with things which are ultimately bad for us? Now I’m not saying we’re all perfect, we’re not – a lot of young lads from by mine have been up to no good, I’ve done things which I’m not happy about – But if I had been the exact same person brought up in a different environment would I have been anywhere near as bad in my past? I don’t think so, in fact I know this for a fact.

For me, anyone who tries to reach out to the UK’s forgotten youths in the worst areas of the country in my book is a gem. We at The Reader Organisation are trying to reach out to people through our Apprenticeship Programme and also through going to working class areas such as Fazakerley or Toxteth in Liverpool, or Glasgow in Scotland, and trying to change their attitudes towards words, poems and books. The only difference between us and people like the young man in the above video is that we’re reciting other people’s words out loud and he is rapping his own words out loud – not much difference, what matters is the positivity brought about through the use of words. So, SGB, you carry on with your rapping revolution and we’ll carry on with our Reading Revolution.

Epilogue: Book-Lovers on the Future of Print

As the Kindle and its fellow electronic readers continue to boom in popularity, the debate over reading in digital versus traditional, ink- pressed-on-paper methods rages on, with dedicated devotees fighting in both corners.  The Reader Organisation extols the values of both forms – if an e-reader is the most convenient way to make regular reading a part of the hectic lives of many, then fantastic. But it also makes us a little worried about the plight of printed books, now and in the future: what will the rise of the e-reader mean for binders, printers, letterpress artists, bookstores (we’re giving a good home to many discarded printed books through our Amazon Bookshop) and general bibliophiles?

EPILOGUE is a beautiful and thought-provoking documentary by student Hanah Ryu Chung which examines the world of books in their printed form as it stands and looks to its future, with insight from the people who know it best – individuals working within Toronto’s print community – raising the scary question of whether we’re likely to see the physical, printed book disappear in our lifetime. The immersive experience of reading is arguably at its height when we open up the pages of a book, holding it within our hands and letting the words sink into our minds, and EPILOGUE elicits many issues surrounding the long-standing art of the printed word, as well as reminding us why books should be cherished (there’s nothing like the smell of a good book, for one…).

With thanks to Brain Pickings – the online “human-powered discovery engine for interestingness” – for bringing this brilliant film to our attention.

[vimeo w=500&h=281]

EPILOGUE: the future of print from EPILOGUEdoc on Vimeo.

Have A Good Week

The above sentiment is something that we wish our readers every week, but this week it’s especially pertinent as it is indeed A Good Week – A Global Celebration of Good happening amongst people, places and communities all across the world.

Running from 18th-24th June, A Good Week is a collaborative celebration, led by social innovation agency A Very Good Company, with the aim of shining a spotlight on the good acts that are being done by individuals and organisations on a daily basis. During seven supercharged days, everyone is encouraged to shout about the good things they’re carrying out, and gather together to work towards the goals of Feeling Good, Doing Good and Living Good.

According to the A Good Week website, to Live Good is to live well – being healthy, active and living in a way that doesn’t jeopardise the happiness of others. If you can get to the end of the week with a feeling of self-fulfilment, you know that you have lived Good. Every week of the year, the act of shared reading contributes to increasing the personal wellbeing of many people, as well as making those around them feel good too. Our 329 Get Into Reading groups that currently run across the country provide hundreds upon hundreds with an hour and a half of shared reading and shared happiness, gathering people to read aloud, relax and make connections. For many, their Get Into Reading group gives them a regular lift that they might not get elsewhere – certainly a lot to feel Good about.

You can Feel Good, Do Good and help yourself and others to Live Good right now by picking up a book and reading aloud – use shared reading to give someone close to you the feelgood factor! Any book will do, but we’d specially recommend A Little, Aloud for Children, which includes a brilliant and varied selection of stories and poems that cannot fail to make you feel really good.