The Big Give Christmas Challenge Round Up!

Seven days. Three match-funders. 292 donors. £45,881 pounds raised to train and support volunteers to bring weekly Shared Reading groups to isolated older people across the UK.


Phew – What a week! At midday on Tuesday we wrapped up The Big Give Christmas Challenge after a huge seven-day campaign to raise funds for our work with socially isolated older people.

We were blown away by the generosity of our supporters right across the country, from Cornwall up to Aberdeenshire, and from Norfolk all the way across to Tyrone, 292 individuals gave a total of £21,369 in just seven days.

And thanks to the support of CHK Charities Ltd, Booker Prize winning translator Deborah Smith and an anonymous match-funder we had an incredible opportunity to double the impact of individual donations made during the week-long campaign, which when combined with gift aid raised a total of £45,881 to train and support volunteer Reader Leaders who will read with older people in care homes and community settings across the UK.

To everyone who donated, baked, knitted, raised money through book sales, tweeted, talked to radio DJs, friends, family, neighbours and strangers to spread the news – we’d like to say a huge Reader thank you!

We launched the Christmas Challenge on Tuesday 28 November with our wonderful Knit and Natter group at our headquarters in Calderstones Park, with an incredible donation of £1106 raised through the sale of their homemade wares at The Reader Gallery. We also welcomed Rhod Davies from the Charity Aid Foundation to a Shared Reading group to celebrate Giving Tuesday.

We were thrilled by the wonderful feature on Deborah Smith’s support for the campaign on The Bookseller, who said:

“Ever since I won the prize I’ve been agonising over what to do with the money, and when I heard about the work The Reader does I thought ‘I want that to happen in Doncaster’.

Literature has opened so many doors for me and growing up I felt like my real education came from reading books from my local library, so it’s really important to me to be able to give something back.

Reading has so many amazing benefits for mental and physical health, which is why the idea that you have to have money or a particular education to access it is so damaging and dangerous. Books should be for everybody – my life would have been completely different without them.”

Read the article in full.

Across the week our friends at Cheshire Farm’s Ice Cream Farm raised money to donate to The Big Give Christmas Challenge and at Reader HQ we held a week of exciting events, with the Giving Tuesday Book Giveaway, after-dark heritage tours with The Calder Stones by Candlelight, a Literary Bake Off and festive fun at The Reader’s Christmas Courtyard Fair.

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Read to Lead: Three Christmas Challenge Volunteers start their Reader Journeys

As we countdown to the launch of The Reader’s Big Give Christmas Challenge, we’ve been catching up with three of the volunteers trained as a result of last year’s successful, award-winning campaign.

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Announcing The Reader’s Big Give Christmas Challenge 2017

Last Christmas you helped us raise over £40,000 to support socially isolated older people through Shared Reading. This year, we’re aiming even higher. Help us reach out to lonely older people this Christmas.

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Featured Poem: Life by Charlotte Bronte

In this week’s browse through the archives we’ve unearthed a beauty by Charlotte Bronte and a lovely piece written by our former colleague Lizzie who chose Life to celebrate a colleague’s success (and half marathon-survival).

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Share Austen for Shared Reading – Donate your #FirstTenner

From today you might find Jane Austen in your wallet but do you know how far she could take Shared Reading?

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Celebrating Heritage Open Days at The Reader’s Courtyard Fair!

Heritage tours, Shared Reading sessions, poetry readings, market stalls, book giveaways, Storybarn sessions, bouncy castle, facepainting and all the seasons in one day at The Reader’s Courtyard Fair!

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The Reader’s Charity Auction for a visit to The Royal Gardens at Highgrove

We’re delighted to announce an exciting opportunity to bid for a visit to The Royal Gardens at Highgrove with supper, an overnight stay AND raise money for The Reader in the process!

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The Big Give: Christmas Challenge Blind Auction

The Mole Family

As part of our Christmas Challenge fundraising we’re auctioning off a rare Christmas read by Russell Hoban. Find out how to get you hands on this little-known Christmas classic!

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Jane Davis joins The Happy List 2015!

Jane Davis High ResWe’re feeling particularly happy today as Jane Davis, our Founder and Director, has made it onto the Independent on Sunday’s Happy List 2015!

The IoS Happy List was set up in 2008 to recognise and celebrate people who enrich the lives of others and make Britain a happier and more caring place to be. From charity fundraisers and founders to teachers, emergency service workers and community heroes, the Happy List features those who have made an extraordinary effort within their local communities and beyond for no personal gain, giving back to others instead. What makes the Happy List so special is that the nominations are made entirely by the public and readers of the Independent on Sunday.

As Founder of The Reader Organisation, Jane has pioneered the practice of shared reading as a way not only to experience the emotional power but also the sheer pleasure that comes from reading great literature aloud, together. From setting up the first ever shared reading group in Birkenhead in 2002, hundreds of groups now run across the UK reaching people of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances.  The combination of the texts read, a relaxed and informal atmosphere and being in the company of others on a regular weekly basis – as well as the additional treats of tea and biscuits – make the groups beneficial to many of our members, giving a boost to wellbeing and confidence as well as fostering new friendships.

‘I don’t know what it is but after this group I always leave feeling better. It’s like a life tonic.’

‘Shared reading is like sitting around a fire and telling stories to each other – a way of binding us together.’

– shared reading group members

Jane Louise moneyShared reading brings many happy moments to our Readers each week, but what is it that makes Jane happy? Getting out and admiring the blooms around our HQ at Calderstones Park is near the top of the list, and earlier this week she was joined on one of her walks by Louise Jones, a long-time group member. Louise gave Jane the remarkable news that since Jane announced her goal to get fit and raise money for the Calderstones Mansion project she has saved up £1 a week to put towards the fund. Not only that, but she presented Jane with the money that she has generously saved. A wonderful gesture which will go towards giving future generations a happy, welcoming and vibrant place to call a home from home. There’s still time to be part of the last push – you can sponsor Jane’s efforts by visiting her fundraising page.

The Happy List 2015 is available in full in today’s Independent on Sunday, and online. All the chosen 100 Happy Listers will be invited to a celebratory reception hosted in their honour by luxury hotel group Grange Hotels in central London this summer, and there’s even more exciting news ahead as every individual featured on the Happy List will also receive the accolade of being put forward for special recognition at the JustGiving 2015 Awards.

For more ways to feel happy, visit the dedicated Happy List digital hub: http://www.independent.co.uk/happylist/ and see @happylist100. Remember, you can always pop into one of our open shared reading groups around the UK too: see the full, up-to-date list on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us

Bungee Fest comes to Calderstones

“Jump and let’s build our wings on the way down” – Ray Bradbury

Bungee FestCould you swap Poe or Potter for a plunge, or substitute Lewis or Lessing for a leap? Want to take the title of Wuthering Heights quite literally? This summer we’re going to heights as before unreached as we bring Bungee Fest to Calderstones Park.

Over two days, Bungee Fest will combine live music, stalls, great food and refreshments with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience a 150 foot bungee jump. The first event of its kind in the city, we’re hoping that the sun will be shining and that lots of thrill-seekers and onlookers alike will join us for what will be a weekend to remember.

By taking on the staggering feat, our bungee-ing daredevils will be part of a much bigger picture. All the proceeds from Bungee Fest will go towards our fundraising target for Calderstones Mansion House, where we’re creating an International Centre for Reading and a community base for people to come together, build healthier communities, make friends and find employment. Through Calderstones Mansion, it’s our aim to give current and future generations the opportunity to discover shared reading, improve wellbeing and extend the pleasure and power of reading for all.

A great summer day out in the Park, an unparalleled opportunity and the chance to support a vital cause – who could ask for more?

Tickets for Bungee Fest cost £80, including admission fee and a donation to the Calderstones Mansion project. The brave amongst you will also receive a goody bag for taking part (as well as the exhilaration that comes from having jumped 150 feet). Snap up your tickets straight away by heading to bungeefest.eventbrite.co.uk

Find out more information about Bungee Fest by contacting emilycrawford@thereader.org.uk or visiting our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/calderstones/bungee-fest

We’ll be bringing you more about Bungee Fest in the coming months, so stay tuned…