Therapy through Literature takes as its subject what the psychologist William James described
as the predicament of ‘twice-born souls’ – those who have to readjust to experience,
following trauma. It looks at crucial versions of life-reappraisal within literature, including prose narratives of breakdown and second chance from Charles Dickens to Oliver Sacks, and the expressive power of poetry as a form of second life, including Elizabethan sonnet writers, Wordsworth
and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This is an intensive but personally moving reading course
designed to show the value of literary thinking through the close exploration of literary
language across the ages, in the search for human meaning.
The module can become part of a two-year, part-time Masters degree in Reading for Life, the first of its kind in the country. Reading for Life is concerned with the wider and deeper ways in which serious creative literature ‘finds’ people, emotionally and imaginatively, by offering living models and visions of human troubles and human possibilities. The course offers books of all kinds – novels, poetry, drama and essays in philosophy and theology – and from all periods, from Shakespeare to the present.
The Therapy through Literature MA module starts in January 2015 at the University of Liverpool in London, 33 Finsbury Square, London EC2A 1AG, with enrolment taking place now.
Cost: £750 per module (+ £50 for accreditation); 30 credits for 6,000 word essay, plus informal formative writing in practice and preparation.
Please contact Professor Phil Davis, Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS), University of Liverpool: email@example.com
Together with Goldsmiths University, London, CRILS will be running a 3 year research project examining and establishing the value and effects of shared reading sessions on individuals. The research is funded by Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital Trust and is part of our South London project, which focuses on a whole population approach to shared reading. A shared reading group which will be the focus of the research is to be set up in Croydon Central Library for an initial period of 24 weeks.
The project will continue ongoing research into the social and cultural value of shared reading, and is the first to take place in London, where our shared reading projects have been operating since 2009.
Last month, two new reports were published by CRILS examining the benefits of shared reading, looking in particular at the intrinsic cultural value of The Reader Organisation’s shared reading model as a particpatory and voluntary experience and further investigation into how shared reading impacts on improving quality of life for people living with dementia. Conclusions from both reports were positive, finding a series of factors which emphasise the humanising presence of literature and support previous research which has discovered benefits such as improved self-confidence, reduced stress, increased social interaction and community integration . You can download ‘Cultural Value: Assessing the intrinsic value of The Reader Organisation’s Shared Reading Scheme’ and ‘Read to Care: An Investigation into Quality of Life Benefits of Shared Reading Groups for People Living with Dementia’ on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/what-we-do-and-why/research
We’re currently looking for anyone who would like to take part in the new shared reading group in Croydon Central Library as part of this new and valuable research. Shared reading groups are informal and voluntary, with no pressure to take part in the reading – you can simply listen to the texts as they are being read aloud.
If you’re interested or would like more information, please call 0781 332 4852.
Our latest Annual Report charts what has been the biggest period of growth and development for TRO, with more shared reading projects expanding across the UK. Highlights of the year include a significant boost to our community projects in South London thanks to the development of a 3 year project to establish more than 100 shared reading groups across the area which meet the needs of the ‘whole person’ – a health priority flagged up at our National Conference 2013 by Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health; an expansion of our North Wales project, which is crucially volunteer-led to help us reach some of the most remote parts of the UK; a Reader-in-Residence project which saw shared reading brought to the heart of a workplace across Merseyside, and ongoing work with our partners including Mersey Care,Liverpool Hope University and CRILS (Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society).
“I’ve experienced so many emotions; failure, success, fear, laughter, tension and escapism. Most of all, how enjoyable and magical reading can be.” – D, a shared Reader
“I… have learnt more of what it is to be a human being, the role of emotions in myself and others, in fact
the whole range of human experience… than I have in half a dozen psychological “treatments” ” – group member in Criminal Justice setting
“New friendships have been formed, new horizons opened up and confidence has been boosted. The reading
revolution has started in Buckley Library!” – North Wales Project volunteer
In a year which has also seen us consolidate our work in a practical sense with support from Big Venture Challenge and Social Business Trust, it is a heartening achievement that the serious pleasure of serious reading is continuing to spread further from its strengthened roots.
CRILS is a research unit dedicated to investigating the effect of reading serious literature in the wider world, with a view to benefits in health and wellbeing, and is The Reader Organisation’s research partner. In 2012, CRILS evaluated TRO’s shared reading programme for people living with dementia with support from the Headley Trust – ‘A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia’ showed that shared reading provided marked improvements in agitation levels, mood levels and concentration levels for participants, as well as improved social interaction.
Developing from this, TRO was commissioned by NHS North West to undertake a follow-up study of the effects of shared reading in Care Homes in Wirral. The aim of the project was to further investigate the impact engaging in a shared reading group activity has upon people living with dementia, adding to and supporting a growing body of anecdotal evidence.
In ‘Read to Care’, particular consideration is given to:
the uses of powerfully emotional literature to trigger awakenings in people living with dementia;
the value of literature in offering emotional experiences too often feared to be ‘negative’;
the kind of memory that is stimulated by shared reading – different from working memory or from what is achieved through reminiscence therapy;
the additional effect on relatives and carers
The conclusions and recommendations of the report show that shared reading groups significantly improve the quality of life of people living with dementia, as well as providing valuable benefit to care workers and relatives in encouragement of remaining human possibilities.
“Reading aloud when others are there to listen, the sense of being in a unified community, has been the privilege of Poets for millenia. And it works. The words – common to all, unite minds and the shared stimulus appears to have an uplifting group effect.” – Melvyn Bragg (preface to Read to Care)
The report will be the focus of a presentation held at the University of Liverpool this November. Professor Phil Davis, Director of CRILS, will present findings from Read to Care, alongside one of The Reader Organisation’s project workers who was involved in the practical delivery of the groups participating in the project. Anyone interested in dementia and the relationship between literature, health and wellbeing is welcome to discover more.
‘Read to Care: Shared Reading Groups & Quality of Life Benefits for People Living With Dementia’ with Professor Phil Davis is on Thursday 20th November, 6.00pm, at Lecture Theatre 1, Sherrington Building, Ashton Street (off Pembroke Place), University of Liverpool.
Yesterday delegates, readers and The Reader Organisation staff descended on The British Library Conference Centre in London, awaiting a day of stimulating discussion and thought-provoking insights into the practice of shared reading for our fifth annual National Conference, Better with a Book. The sun was shining early, which was only a sign of the good things to come, and anticipation for the day started early with our #betterwithabook hashtag on Twitter:
We welcomed delegates from a wide range of fields, including libraries and community development, education, therapy, law, nursing, and from across the country and beyond – even from as far away as Melbourne, showcasing the global reach that shared reading is beginning to have.
After a welcome from Founder and Director Dr Jane Davis thanking everyone for being advocates of reading for pleasure, the day started by asking whether young people are Better with a Book featuring an esteemed panel, Baroness Estelle Morris (Institute of Effective Education at the University of York), Dr Alice Sullivan (Director 1970 British Cohort Study, Institute of Education, University of London) and Simon Barber (Chief Executive at 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust). After reading from their favourite childhood books, Dr Sullivan presented the findings of an illuminating study which found that young people’s reading habits had more influence on their attainment than the level of their parents’ education. The matter of giving young people choice to explore reading in relation to their place in their world was a big talking point – Simon spoke of his experiences of running a group for young people in the mental health inpatient unit at 5 Boroughs, where they chose to read texts as eclectic as Black Beauty and Romeo and Juliet, and Estelle placed emphasis on reading as a social context for children and young people.
The most inspiring and incredibly moving part of the day came when we met some of our readers from shared reading groups in London and Merseyside who shared their personal experiences of the impact shared reading has had upon their lives, from giving them the confidence to live well as well as discover new skills (Jennifer went on to do Read to Lead training), find employment, appear on stage, and in the most fundamental and significant cases, provided them with the means to keep on living. Shared reading was described as a ‘lifesaver’ and the power of the testimonies was truly alive in the room:
Incredibly moving, funny, raw stories from those attending groups with @thereaderorg
It wasn’t just the effect on themselves that was brought to life – Jennifer spoke passionately about her work reading with people with dementia, and one woman in particular for whom shared reading has brought joy and a release to her life, so much so that it is a major point of her week:
“She’s in the poetry, and for one whole hour she’s happy.”
Seminars honing in on the topics of shared reading in PIPEs, research into the cultural significance of shared reading, examining the working model of shared reading for commissioners and the links between reading for pleasure and cognitive development gave much for us to think about before heading to our main afternoon sessions.
Lord Alan Howarth (Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Arts, Health and Wellbeing) chaired a panel discussion how reading in prisons can contribute to prison reform and how prisoners should be helped within the system and on return to the community. The complex topic was masterfully handled by Nick Benefield (previous Advisor on Personality Disorder at NHS England and Joint Head of the NHS Personality Disorder Programme), Lord David Ramsbotham (House of Lords member with a focus on penal reform and defence) and Megg Hewlett (Reader-in-Residence and PIPEs group leader in West London). Following the day’s emerging theme of shared reading ‘opening and unlocking’ individuals, Megg shared the story of a young woman within a criminal justice setting finding herself in the poem Bluebird by Charles Bukowski, and Lord Ramsbotham spoke of his belief in the importance of Readers-in-Residence to both the medical and educational needs of prisoners.
Our keynote speech came from writer, broadcaster and author Lord Melvyn Bragg, who spoke in-depth about the story behind his novel Grace and Mary, which came from his own experiences of his mother being diagnosed with dementia. He spoke about how it was important for him to help and discussed how literature linked with his lived experiences of the condition; in particular highlighting The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot and King Lear (“Nothing will come of nothing.”). In discussion with Jane, Lord Bragg spoke about his life as a reader, saying that he couldn’t imagine his life without books and explaining in powerful words what reading has done for him.
“Reading has given me life…reading has given me several lives…reading has given me access to the possibility of a great number of lives.”
His words proved just as inspiring for our audience:
A closing point from Jane which reminded us of the importance of finding ourselves in reading books from the ages rounded off a remarkable day which highlighted in real human terms the remarkable effects reading can have on so many different lives. ‘Inspirational’ was the word of the day from our #betterwithabook attendees, and it was a very fitting term indeed.
Better with a Book was featured on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking by Jules Evans from Queen Mary Centre for the History of Emotions, University of London. Listen from around 38 min 20 secs in to hear about books that have helped guests through hard times and an exploration of our work and research: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0435bj1
The latest research into the effects shared reading is having as a non-medical, literature based intervention into health conditions has been published by The Reader Organisation and research partners.
Intital results from the study, which was examined in a seminar at last year’s National Conference, have proved to show positive impacts in the relationship between shared reading, alleviation of pain symptoms and improved psychological wellbeing, with factors such as absorbed concentration upon the literature, a sense of community, comradeship and social connections being established and an enhanced quality of life all emerging for patients taking part in the group. The study follows previous research from CRILS which focused upon shared reading in relation to mental health conditions and is the first time data has been collected on physical health and a literature-based intervention.
People living with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms such as mood or anxiety disorders, and in turn depressed patients have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain. One of the contributing researchers, Dr Andrew Jones from Broadgreen Hospital, commented that the study gave a positive indication for patients with chronic pain:
“Early indications are showing that the reading group is making a difference to people in our hospital. But there is something intangible, a deeper impact beyond that, which we can’t measure using existing qualitative research methods. While there is already evidence of the mental health benefits of shared reading, little is known about the benefits for physical health, but the link between chronic pain and psychiatric symptoms indicate it could help.”
The study contains several first-hand accounts from patients who took part, talking about their experiences of attending the group:
“It’s my little island…a safe haven…it’s very informal and comfortable”
“I don’t have pain when we are discussing or reading the story…the whole thing is read out and I don’t have any pain.”
“I’ve really, really got to concentrate…and that’s what it makes me do. It makes me concentrate and listen.”
Though more research is needed into exploring the relationship between chronic pain, reduced symptoms and a shared reading intervention, this initial study gives positive indication that further work can be established and could be extended to dialysis wards and other areas of physical health at Broadgreen and the Royal Hospitals. The shared reading group set up for the study at Broadgreen proved so popular that The Reader Organisation has been commissioned to run sessions there for the next three years.
CRILS will be at Better with a Book, The Reader Organisation’s National Conference 2014, examining footage of shared reading groups in action as part of their AHRC funded research project on the cultural value of shared reading as opposed to other cultural activities. Places are still available for you to hear more about the relationship between literature, shared reading and its effects on individuals, communities and organisations at The British Library Conference Centre on Thursday 15th May: http://www.thereader.org.uk/events/conference
It’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…
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…
The 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!
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.
Shared 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.
It 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.
The panel includes: Helen Wilson (The Reader Organisation), Dr Josie Billington (Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems) and Fiona Johnstone(Director of Public Health, Policy and Performance, Wirral Council), who will all be speaking about the effects of literature on people living with dementia, with attention paid to impacts that have arisen from shared reading projects with older people.
The Reader Organisation will also be at the event with more information about how the shared, read-aloud model works in settings for older people and also about what we do more widely in other areas.
We’re working with CRILS as a research partner to help validate the role of reading in health and wellbeing, using literature to model creative thinking about human existence and to evidence the impact of our shared reading projects. Last year they published the evaluation report ‘A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia’ which examined the ways in which the Get Into Reading model produces a significant reduction in dementia symptoms, benefitting the quality of life of older people within care homes, as well as staff and carers. You can download and read the full report on the Research page of our website. Professor Phil Davis of CRILS also chaired a seminar on Living Well With Dementia at The Reader Organisation’s National Conference 2013, which you can read more about here on our blog.
The Literary Agenda as a whole explains why now, urgently, is the right time to start reinvigorated work into the meaning and value of reading literature. See below a summary of four areas of exploration thatare central to the work of The Literary Agenda:
Asks what is the point of literature in contemporary life.
Looks at the importance of reading and creative literary-based thinking in the wider world.
Addresses the state of literary education inside schools and universities.
Encourages a bold variety of personal approaches and individual voices, speaking across different countries, disciplines and temperaments.
Today literary work is being challenged as a way of thinking about contemporary life. Many fear that it has become side-lined by newer disciplines such as cultural and media studies, while others view its failure to attract national funding in competition with more apparently ‘useful’ subjects as the beginning of the end. Equally, the rise of instant social media and new digital technologies provokes the question that arises on every side: What is the point in poetry, plays, novels, in literary criticism and, above all, slow serious and deep reading. These fascinating and very important issues are further addressed within The Literary Agenda.
Interested in finding out more? You can purchase Phil’s book, Reading and the Reader, which is out now, by simply visiting the Oxford University Press website via this link and pursue your curiosity.
Great news for growing the Reading Revolution at our base in Liverpool – The Reader Organisation has recently received two successful bids for our work in the area, which will enable us to keep connecting people through great literature and reach even more people across the city.
The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital Trust have commissioned The Reader Organisation for a three year project running shared reading groups in chronic pain settings across the trust. We already a deliver a group for people living with chronic pain at Broadgreen Hospital, started as part of a research project by the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS) investigating the effects shared reading may have upon the condition. Though the research period has come to an end (with the report expected soon), the members’ benefits have ensured that the group is continuing. The impact of the chronic pain group was highlighted at this year’s Reader Organisation National Conference:
“I used to be crying at night sometimes …but now it’s given me a lift, I feel better and I can use the time better… to read instead.” – member of chronic pain group, Broadgreen Hospital
This new commission from The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital Trust enables more shared reading groups to be set up in the area of chronic pain, as well as potentially expanding into dialysis wards and other areas of physical health.