Award Winning Volunteers in Knowsley

knowsley-rob-francis-helen-keith

Last week our wonderful team of volunteers in Knowsley took second place in the Special Recognition for Outstanding Contribution in Communities at the Knowsley Sport and Cultural Awards 2016.

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The Reader at Calderstones secures £1.99m Heritage Lottery Fund investment

heritage_lottery_fund_web2015 has been another big year of expansion at our base at Calderstones and we’re very pleased to announce that the next stage of redevelopment of Calderstones Mansion is imminent, thanks to a secured confirmed grant of £1.99million from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

In 2014, The Reader at Calderstones project received initial first-round development funding and support from HLF, focusing on building a series of history-based events, talks and workshops showcasing the heritage of the Mansion and the surrounding park. The new investment will enable us to build on the work that has already taken place creating a flagship International Centre for Reading for the future of the Grade II listed building whilst also commemorating and celebrating its past glories.

Sara Hilton, Head of HLF North West, said:

“The Reader is a real Liverpool success story that helps thousands of people get together to share their love of reading. We were hugely impressed by these proposals that will bring an exciting new use to the 19th century Mansion House and help many more people discover the history of the 4000 year old Calderstones. Special thanks must go to National Lottery players for making our investment possible.”

House-92A crucial part of the regeneration will be the rehousing of The Calderstones, the oldest human monument in Liverpool. These forgotten Neolithic treasures are older than the Pyramids and will now be brought back into the heart of Calderstones Park, where their conditions will be significantly improved for present and future generations to enjoy. Liverpool City Council, National Museums Liverpool and Manchester University have all been consulted as part of the process.

Initial work will begin in 2016 to secure the building which over the years has fallen into a state of disrepair. Currently hidden architecturally significant elements will be carefully revealed and restored, bringing the Mansion back to life.

The finished regeneration of the building will house a heritage room which will show how one of the many rooms in the Mansion may have looked in 1880 in its heyday. Visitors will get the opportunity to interact with objects and learn about the history of the house at that time. As well as these key historical features, there will be four reading rooms allowing us to continue our shared reading groups at Calderstones, bringing people together to read great literature out loud as a practical way of improving wellbeing, building stronger communities and extending reading pleasure. A newly created bistro will also allow visitors to relax after their visit and soak up and reflect on the atmosphere of the house.

ReadingGroup-11Our Founder and Director Dr Jane Davis has expressed her excitement on behalf of The Reader at the wonderful news:

“We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. It will allow us to grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something truly special at Calderstones for the city of Liverpool and beyond. Not only will this mean we can offer more of our reading groups and continue to grow our wellbeing initiatives here but we can carefully bring The Calderstones themselves back to their rightful place at the heart of the park to be enjoyed and cherished by visitors.”

With this news we’re looking forward to 2016 bringing in the biggest chapter yet in the story of Calderstones Mansion.

For more news and updates about what’s happening at the Mansion, head over to the Calderstones Mansion blog.

Social Business Trust backs The Reader with £1.5m support

SBT Logo RGBWe’re delighted to announce the news that Social Business Trust has awarded £1.5 million worth of funding and business support to The Reader, allowing us to reach many more people across the country through shared reading.

We’ve been working with SBT since 2013, when their initial funding and investment of £280,000 gave us the learning and support needed to grow and strengthen the core of what we do. Expertise from SBT’s corporate partners including British Gas have enabled us to develop our projects, measure our impacts and help people who need the benefits that our unique and innovative shared reading model can bring. Thanks to continued support from SBT through this new package of funding, we’ll be able to more than double the number of people we reach from 11,000 a year to 27,000 by 2018.

Adele Blakeborough MBE, CEO of Social Business Trust has seen the effects of shared reading for herself:

“It is incredibly moving and compelling to see the difference The Reader makes to thousands of vulnerable people through its simple model of shared reading groups. We know there is scope to expand The Reader’s important work more extensively across the country and are delighted to support the organisation to achieve that growth.”

MFS_9275Our shared reading groups take place in a variety of settings around the UK including prisons, mental health centres, care homes and local communities. The simple model of reading aloud in facilitated groups is proven to support positive mental health and wellbeing, combating isolation, calming aggression and helping people with dementia. Through the act of reading on a regular basis with others, people can connect with a better understanding of themselves, realise opportunities they might not have thought possible and make changes in their lives.

We’re already helping people like Angela to do this:

Angela from Liverpool has bipolar affected disorder and experienced a full nervous breakdown three years ago. She joined a group at The Reader a year ago and then started volunteering on reception at our head office. As a result of building her confidence and experience, she is about to begin a paid job.

Angela says: “I saw my consultant for the first time in 6 months the other day and I don’t think he could believe the change in me. If I was putting percentages on my progress over the last year I would say 30% natural improvement and pills and 70% down to coming here. If I hadn’t found The Reader, who knows what I would be doing now?”

Thanks to our continued funding from SBT, we’ll be able to help even more people in many more places across the UK.

To find out more about how SBT are helping social enterprises around the country, including The Reader, to scale up the impact they make, visit their website.

Reading with Looked After Children in Wirral: Pudsey approved!

Say hello to a certain someone our Wirral team discovered on their travels...
Say hello to a certain someone our Wirral team discovered on their travels…

BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal takes place this Friday, so there’s no need to be alarmed if you spot a sudden surge of fluffy yellow bear ear-wearing individuals. Just last week, we happened to come across a VIB (very special Bear) at MediaCityUK…

Earlier this year, we were awarded a grant from Children in Need to fund our project reading with Looked After Children in Wirral. Our previous work with Looked After Children across Merseyside has shown how reading for pleasure can bring a variety of benefits, not least in creating a safe environment in which young people can engage with literature that relates to them.

“I love this, I want it to go on forever” – a Looked After Child reading with us as part of our pilot project

By reading one-on-one with a project worker or volunteer in a familiar setting, children are able to expand their imaginations and discover new possibilities. Not only does our shared reading approach encourage a love for reading for the sheer fun of doing so, but also allows young people to reflect on the experiences of the characters they encounter, stimulating a greater sense of empathy and understanding.  Making children excited about books in their own space often gives the incentive of wanting to read more, and so we’ve found that confidence with literacy increases, as does general self-esteem.

For some children, reading can offer a support unavailable elsewhere – a way of getting to grips with their emotions and providing a safe domain through which their voice can be heard, and in some cases found. The connection between reading and wellbeing allows for a retreat from the stresses of everyday life and an escape into another world. This was true for Liam, who took part in one of our previous projects:

“The support of reading together was apparent another week, when Liam looked like he’d been crying and his carer said he had not had a good day in school. He did not want to talk to me about it, but he did feel like reading. We got absorbed in the story together, and by the end he looked much happier. I asked him if he felt better than before the session and he said he did, which was very rewarding.”

Over the next three years, we’ll be able to create more of these reading experiences for over 100 young people aged between 5-15 on the Wirral thanks to the funding received by Children in Need. We’ve already started to recruit volunteers who will be matched with a child for one-to-one reading sessions in foster and care homes. After six months, young people will be able to continue by taking part in group sessions with their peers, encouraging friendships to be formed as well as their love of reading to grow.

For more information about our Wirral Looked After Children project, see our website or contact Charlie Kelly, Looked After Children Volunteer Coordinator: charliekelly@thereader.org.uk

Read more of our Reader Stories from Looked After Children in some of our previous projects:

W’s Reader Story
P’s Reader Story

The Reader makes the shortlist for social enterprise

Wonderful news to share from our HQ as we can announce that The Reader has made the shortlist for two prestigious awards highlighting the impacts that social enterprises are making both on a regional and national level.

SENFor the third year running, we’ve been shortlisted in the Social Enterprise Network Powerful Together Awards. For the 2015 Awards, The Reader has been listed in the Growth Award category, recognising businesses and social enterprises that have a track record of consistent growth in the Liverpool City region against the backdrop of a difficult economy, clearly demonstrating entrepreneuralism and resilience. A total of 20 organisations made the shortlist from 90 nominations, and we’re delighted to be included in the category – especially at a time when our social enterprises are expanding at our base at Calderstones, with the imminent launch of both The Reader Ice Cream Parlour and Storybarn, the North West’s first interactive story centre for children and families.

Natwest SE100We’re proud to have our impact recognised on a nationwide scale, as we have also made the shortlist for the 2015 NatWest SE100 Awards. 21 organisations from across the UK have been selected from 1,200 organisations signed up to the SE100 Index, highlighting the strength of the social enterprise sector and its ability to create both social change and economic growth nationwide. We’re on the list for the Resilience Award, alongside three other organisations from around the country, highlighting social ventures which ‘continually deliver positive social or environmental change and repeatedly achieve impact goals, keeping focused on delivering their mission whatever the weather’. The Reader is one of only two social enterprises representing the North West on the shortlist so we’re thrilled to be flying the flag for our home region.

The winners of both the Powerful Together Awards and NatWest SE100 Awards will be announced later this month, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed and wishing the very best of luck to our fellow nominees.

 

The Reader Organisation: a Workplace for Wellbeing

workplace wellbeing charterWe’re always keen to point out the links between shared reading, great literature and good wellbeing, but our credentials for healthy living here at The Reader Organisation have been given another boost as we have been reaccredited for the Workplace Wellbeing Charter.

The Workplace Wellbeing Charter is an opportunity for organisations to demonstrate their commitment to the health and wellbeing of their workforce. Like the shared reading groups we run throughout the UK each week, the Charter takes a holistic approach to wellbeing that includes leadership, culture and communication, as well as health and wellbeing topics such as physical activity and mental health, promoting rounded discussions between employers and employees. The standards reflect best practice and are endorsed nationally by Public Health England, with our accreditation carried out by Health@Work.

The magnificent Magnolia tree outside the Mansion House that boosts our wellbeing
The magnificent Magnolia tree outside the Mansion House that boosts our wellbeing

Being based in the beautiful and blooming surroundings of Calderstones Park in Liverpool, we were already off to a good start (taking a look at The Allerton Oak and a particularly lovely magnolia tree provides the perfect opportunity to get into the fresh air and clear our minds) but we’re very pleased to report an overall achievement in the several categories of wellbeing outlined by the Charter.

The set of values that shape our culture and working practices both internally and externally, including ‘Great literature is at our heart’, ‘We value innovation and find ways to live with change’ and ‘We celebrate success but learn from our mistakes’, were highlighted as particularly significant:

The Reader Organisation’s values are to be highly praised. It is clear that this set of eight values runs right through the heart of the organisation and is not merely theoretical or tokenistic.

Other stand-out points included the support given to staff in their roles through methods including a personal development programme, action to encourage staff participation to become involved in physical activity and our shared lunches each Monday, bringing staff together with lots of good, healthy food.

We’re proud to be wearing the badge for wellbeing, demonstrating our commitment to encourage positive practices both inside and outside of the organisation.

If you’d like to come and work for an organisation that values good wellbeing, we’re currently recruiting for a number of jobs based at our Liverpool HQ, including a Volunteer Coordinator for an exciting new project working with children and families, a developer for our upcoming Story Barn at Calderstones and managerial positions in Marketing, IT and Operations. See our website for full details on all roles, including how to apply and deadlines for applications: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/job-opportunities/current-opportunities

The Reader South West wins at Wiltshire Public Health Awards

A huge congratulations go to The Reader Organisation in the South West, who were winners at the Wiltshire Public Health Awards last night.

Jennifer McDerra, The Reader Organisation's Development Manager for Public Health and Dementia, accepts the Wiltshire Public Health award for improving mental health and wellbeing, awarded to the Wiltshire shared reading project (Photo credit: Wiltshire Council)
Jennifer McDerra, The Reader Organisation’s Development Manager for Public Health and Dementia, accepts the Wiltshire Public Health award for improving mental health and wellbeing, awarded to the Wiltshire shared reading project (Photo credit: Wiltshire Council)

Our Wiltshire shared reading project, running in partnership with Wiltshire Libraries, picked up the prize for improved mental health and wellbeing across the area. Running since January 2014, Library Memory Groups bring the shared reading experience to people living with dementia and memory loss on a weekly basis. With poems and short stories that are read aloud, group members are immersed in a calm and relaxed atmosphere, with the texts being read and digested allowing people to piece together collective personal memories related to the stories and poems, which in turn encourages feelings of wellbeing.

Group members and their family members and carers have reported that the weekly sessions have a positive impact on their mood, allowing them to rediscover and enjoy literature with others and giving the opportunity to make new friends and connections within their community.

The project has also involved volunteers to assist in running the groups, allowing it to extend further across the region.

The Wiltshire Public Health Awards, run by Wiltshire Council, recognise individuals, projects and organisations for their contributions to improving the health and wellbeing of people who live and work in Wiltshire in nine different categories, including the mental health award. This year’s awards saw a staggering 120 nominees enter, so the achievement is something we’re especially proud of.

Jennifer McDerra, The Reader Organisation’s Development Manager for Public Health and Dementia, was at the ceremony in Trowbridge to pick up the award on behalf of the team. A special congratulations goes to Wiltshire Project Worker Josephine Corcoran who has done so much to get the project off the ground and maintained its success onto to award-winning status!

You can read more about the Wiltshire project, and the remarkable effects it has had on group members on Josephine’s blog:
https://josephinecorcoran.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/reading-with-people-who-have-dementia-in-wiltshire/

https://josephinecorcoran.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/remembering-who-we-are-through-reading/

https://josephinecorcoran.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/the-homecoming-of-sir-thomas-wyatt/

A new Library Memory Group will be starting at Salisbury Library in Wiltshire on Thursdays, 11am-12pm, weekly from 23rd April. Other Library Memory Groups in the area currently run in Trowbridge, Warminster and Mere (Wednesdays) and Royal Wootton Bassett and Pewsey (Thursdays). For full details on the groups, visit our website or follow @TheReaderSW on Twitter:
http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us

The Reader Organisation’s Annual Report 2013/14

peckhamFollowing a successful 2014 AGM last week – our second held at our new HQ, Calderstones Mansion HouseThe Reader Organisation’s Annual Report for 2013/14 is now available on our website to read and download.

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).

The report charts our work across a number of areas, including Health and Wellbeing, Dementia, Criminal Justice and Children and Young People, and also showcases the impact of shared reading in its most vital and human sense, as told through the words of some of our Readers from a variety of settings and places:

“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.

The Reader Organisation’s Annual report 2013/14 can be downloaded or read on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/who-we-are/annual-report