Kind but bold: Shared Reading Montana

 

At The Reader we’re constantly blown away by the personal stories our group members, volunteers and colleagues share with us. We’ve learned that you can never underestimate where your Shared Reading journey can take you, or where you can take Shared Reading! When Erin, our resident American returned stateside we knew it wouldn’t be the end of her Reader journey and we’re delighted to share her latest transatlantic update – Shared Reading hits Montana! 

Continue reading “Kind but bold: Shared Reading Montana”

Launch of Shared Reading in Germany at the Leipzig Book Fair

We are delighted that Thomas Böhm and Carsten Sommerfeldt of Böhm & Sommerfeldt: Literarische Unternehmungen (Literary Ventures) are launching Shared Reading in Germany as we speak at the Leipzig Book Fair (17 – 20 March).

Continue reading “Launch of Shared Reading in Germany at the Leipzig Book Fair”

Get ready for World Read Aloud Day 2016

WRAD 2016 logoBy Robert Lyon, Communications Intern

Reading aloud holds so much value for individuals of all backgrounds and communities and so it is with great excitement that we look forward to World Read Aloud Day. On February 24th 2016 – that’s tomorrow – World Read Aloud Day calls attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. To read is to understand the thoughts and ideas of others; reading takes you away to another time and place and gives voice to the chaotic emotions of life.

“When reading, I could breathe.” – Former inpatient and Shared Reading group member

To read out loud is to take the words out of a book and bring them to life, making them resonate with readers on a personal and emotional level. World Read Aloud Day does something very special in seeking to encourage everyone to take the time to pick up a book, get reading and connect with themselves and others.

“Normally when I’m reading, I’m thinking about what I’m going to have for my tea! But reading aloud really helps you to concentrate and take it in.” – participant in a Shared Reading session

World Read Aloud Day is organised by LitWorld, a not for profit organisation that aims to promote global literacy and has had a lot of success doing it. With projects in places like the Philippines, Haiti and Africa they seek to give all children the ability to be a reader no matter their social or economic backgrounds. Their work in many ways reflects The Reader’s passion for literature and a desire to use it to help others.

One of our current projects that utilises reading aloud and encouraging it amongst a younger generation is the Off The Page project, commissioned by Liverpool Families Programme at Liverpool City Council.

“With a book it’s not like telly ‘cos it’s your imagination” – Charlie, 12 years old

Our Off The Page team are training volunteers to read one to one with 8 to 16 year olds for an hour a week, wherever possible in their own homes, taking a love of literature to disadvantaged young people across Liverpool. As well as reading one to one the project also hosts Family Fun days where Shared Reading is enjoyed with not only the children but the adults in their lives – be they parents, foster parents or workers. You can find out more about volunteering with Off The Page on our website.

Our new read-aloud anthology A Little, Aloud with Love - perfect to celebrate World Read Aloud Day!
Our new read-aloud anthology A Little, Aloud with Love – perfect to celebrate World Read Aloud Day!

Want to try reading aloud yourself? Here are some of our top tips for reading aloud from our dedicated Group Leaders:

  • Read silently to yourself first to familiarise yourself to the text
  • Practice reading aloud a couple of times to familiarise yourself with how you speak the text
  • Make eye contact with your audience every now and then
  • Mark your place with a finger so you don’t get lost!

Now have a go! Here’s something from our new anthology A Little, Aloud with Love to sink your teeth into and get reading aloud. Why not share the love of reading aloud with someone close this World Read Aloud Day?

To A Stranger

Passing stranger! you do not know
How longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking,
Or she I was seeking,
(it comes to me, as of a dream,)

I have somewhere surely
Lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other,
Fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,

You grew up with me,
Were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you, and slept with you—your body has become
Not yours only, nor left my body mine only.

You give me the pleasure of your eyes,
Face, flesh, as we pass—you take of my beard, breast, hands,
In return,

I am not to speak to you—I am to think of you
When I sit alone, or wake at night alone,
I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

Walt Whitman

‘The magic of story’: The Unforgotten Coat in Germany

The Unforgotten Coat has been on quite a journey since its publication in 2011 for The Reader’s Our Read campaign. It’s been shared in schools and universities, at festivals and events and has garnered several award wins and nominations. We’ve been amazed at how the story – inspired by true events – has become a global sensation, but not all that surprised given that it was penned by the brilliant Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Recently, Frank embarked on a trip which highlighted not only the appeal of the book but also its relevance to current events that are happening across the world. He writes for us:

Frank Cottrell Boyce making the children's keynote lecture at the Berlin International Literature Festival
Frank Cottrell Boyce making the children’s keynote lecture at the Berlin International Literature Festival

A few months ago I won a prestigious book award in Germany – the James Kruss prize. This involved me in the difficult work of being wined and dined and feted in one of the world’s most beautiful libraries – the International Children’s Library in Schloss Blutenburg near Munich. I wrote about the experience here. It also involved me giving the children’s keynote lecture at the Berlin International Literature Festival last week.

I find it surprising and thought-provoking that all this prestige comes from the book I wrote for The Reader in response to the badgering of Jane Davis – The Unforgotten Coat. This is a book I wrote quickly, inspired by a Mongolian girl I met in a school in Bootle. It’s illustrated with photographs taken by friends Carl Hunter and Clare Heaney. It could not be more home-made. Yet it seems really to have hit a chord in Germany.

The events were all packed. I was taken to schools and to a refugee project where the kids were doing work inspired by the book. A party of Mongolian children turned up, delighted by the fact that the book’s heroes are from Mongolia. It’s always been well-regarded in Germany (it won the state-sponsored Jugendliteraturpreis last year) but the events of the summer, and the refugee crisis in particular, have made it seem relevant and timely. I was even invited onto the news to discuss the crisis, which turned out to be slightly embarrassing as I only remembered that I don’t really speak German when I was on already on air.

There’s something to be said here about the magic – or the grace – of story. When the book was written there was no refugee crisis. I wrote it purely because its two swaggering, resourceful, vulnerable heroes seemed fun and real. When politicians are referring to refugees as “swarms” and “floods” as though they were the plagues of Egypt, it’s important to be reminded that we are talking about individuals – as needy, as worthy, as eccentric as we are ourselves.   Narrative is a great mental and moral discipline.

Frank Cottrell BoyceIt also says something about the inherent internationalism of children’s stories. When I was growing up I was immersed in stories that came from Finland, Africa, the Middle East – but they all seemed to belong to me, part of my inheritance every bit as much as Scouse or the Beatles. By the way, The International Children’s Library was founded by Jella Lepman – a Jewish refugee who got out of Germany just in time and then, when the war was over, went back to help rebuild it. Imagine that. She got away. She got a nice job at the BBC. Then she went back. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s one of the most moving and salutary things I’ve ever heard. She went back because she thought that children’s stories were important. I put her picture over my desk and say a prayer each morning that I don’t sell her vision short.

I went home via Hamburg where I took my little son to see “Miniatur Wunderland” – a terrific display of model towns and villages. One room contains a series of scenes of one street through time. From the Bronze Age, through the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, the Nazis (“in the far corner we can see Rosa Luxembourg being murdered …”), the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Wall and then… it doesn’t stop. The next few cases show visions of what the same street might be in the future. Each of those cases has been put together by one of the main political parties. They were each asked to show what their vision of the future would look like at street level. It was revelatory and oddly moving to see that politicians dream too.

This is a picture of the Miniatur Wunderland version of the collapse of the Wall.

Miniatur Wunderland picture (Frank CB blog)


 

The Unforgotten Coat received its international premiere at the Berlin International Literature Festival on 9th September at the Children and Young Adult Literature section of the festival, with a special focus on ‘Escape, displacement and migration’.

“Good stories help us make sense of the world. They invite us to discover what it’s like being someone completely different.” – Author Gillian Cross writes for The Guardian on how fiction can help us to understand the Syrian refugee crisis. The Unforgotten Coat has been offered as one recommendation (and we agree), but there are many more, suggested by readers here.

An exhibition of original digital and Polaroid-style photographs from The Unforgotten Coat by Carl Hunter and Clare Heaney is on display at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield until Saturday 26th September.

The latest from Calderstones Mansion – including the story of the Storybarn

Jane in the refurbished Prinovis Reading Room (credit: Shirley Bateman)
Jane in the refurbished Prinovis Reading Room (credit: Shirley Bateman)

There’s been a lot going on at Calderstones Mansion in the last few months – with lots of help from the hardworking and generous team at Prinovis, we’ve been able to open our first refurbished Reading Room to enable our group members to enjoy weekly sessions even more, and the summer has seen a number of outdoor productions stop off at the Garden Theatre, including shows from Illyria, MATE Productions and three sell-out performances of Romeo and Juliet from The Globe On Tour, with not even a spot or two of rain enough to dampen proceedings.

We are creating an International Centre for Reading at Calderstones, so it’s fitting that we could welcome a special visitor from the other side of the world earlier this month. Shirley Bateman, Reader Development Team Leader from Melbourne Library Service came to The Reader HQ as part of her tour of literary projects around the UK and Ireland. As well as hearing all about the City of Readers campaign, Jane took Shirley on a tour of Calderstones, including the amazing Prinovis Reading Room. You can read more about the visit on Shirley’s blog: https://shirleybateman.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/more-famous-than-the-beatles/

More exciting news is just around the corner…development of the Storybarn, the North West’s first interactive story centre for children and families, is taking shape outside HQ as we type, and we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors from far and wide when it opens this Autumn. The Storybarn has been made possible thanks to funding from the Social Investment Business and their Liverpool City Region Impact Fund – our Head of Facilities Craig spoke to SIB about the plans for the Storybarn and how it will encourage imagination and a love of reading in future generations:

Keep up to date with all of the latest at the Mansion House on the Calderstones section of our website, and by following @CaldiesMansion on Twitter – where you can see the newest, very exciting installation to the Storybarn, tested by our Storybarn Developer Holly and Jane herself!

The Reader Organisation signs lease for Calderstones Mansion

Calderstones_Mansion_House_409x273Very exciting news – The Reader Organisation is proud to announce that we have signed a lease with Liverpool City Council for Calderstones Mansion House giving us residency for 125 years.

We have been working within the Mansion House for 18 months since securing preferred bidder status from Liverpool City Council in January 2013. Since then, we’ve been welcoming thousands of visitors of all ages to enjoy shared reading groups, heritage tours and special events all aimed at creating a model reading community, the first of its kind in the UK – somewhere for people to read, learn, play, make new friends, find new opportunities and feel at home.

Other significant steps in the regeneration of the Mansion House have included opening a thriving social enterprise cafe, reopening the Gallery space to host passionate local artists and utilising the beautiful ‘secret garden’ of the Mansion House for theatre productions by Shakespeare’s Globe and other companies, as well as for our first Children’s Literature Festival. You can keep updated with all the current activity at Calderstones on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/calderstones

The signing of the lease means that we are able to start the next exciting stages of redevelopment, which will include working with members of the community to raise funds for vital mansion refurbishment, as well as working together to make sure local voices who feel a connection with the building are heard in the process. The project will need to acquire funding of £4 Million and has already secured a first stage Heritage Lottery Fund grant alongside a Social Investment Business feasibility grant.

We have been incredibly lucky to have the support of the community as well as Liverpool City Council in the first stage of this journey:

“This is a major step forward for the Reader Organisation’s plans for the Mansion House. It will enable them to press on with their exciting proposals to develop the building. We wanted the Mansion House to be taken over by an organisation that would bring it back into use in very positive manner and would  protect its future. The work that the Reader Organisation are doing alongside us and the local community will ensure that happens. We are confident that by granting them this lease it will help the Reader Organisation go forward and make their proposals a reality to the enormous benefit of the city.” – Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, Liverpool city council cabinet member for regeneration

We are thrilled to have reached this stage and continue to develop the prospects for the Mansion House, Stables and surrounding buildings. Current future plans include the possibility of a bistro, accommodation for literary residencies, and the restoration of the much loved garden theatre. The Mansion House will continue to be open to the public whilst it undergoes future changes, not only with its shared reading groups but with rentable offices, catered events spaces and regular seasonal events.

‘This is a key milestone in the development of The Reader at Calderstones.  We are very pleased that Liverpool City Council have confidence in our vision for the Mansion House and have backed it with a 125 year lease.  Whilst the building will undergo a significant refurbishment over the coming years – we are very much open for business – you can attend shared reading groups, visit the café and gallery, rent event and office spaces – please come and visit the house!’ Dr Jane Davis, Founder and Director, The Reader Organisation

We’re just about to move our Head Office to Calderstones, so all systems are go for a bright future to begin for Readers across Liverpool and the rest of the country.

You can stay up-to-date with everything that’s happening at the Mansion House by visiting our website, and following @CaldiesMansion on Twitter. You can also pop in, pick up a What’s On Guide and enjoy some shared reading!

2013 at The Reader Organisation: A Year in Review Part 1

Calderstones Mansion House c Dave JonesIt’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…

January

The year got off to an incredible start as TRO was awarded preferred bidder status for Calderstones Mansion House, Coach House and Stable Yard at Calderstones Park, Liverpool. Our vision for Calderstones is a community for everyone with reading at its heart, and we’re already building up the foundations of the future International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing at Calderstones with our shared reading and community event activity.

Scans of brain activity show intense electrical activity when reading challenging literature
Scans of brain activity show intense electrical activity when reading challenging literature

The work of the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS) attracted global attention with research headed by Professor Phil Davis finding that reading serious literature ‘acts like a rocket-booster to the brain’, and Read to Lead moved further afield with its first Belgian course. Reading aloud was also signified as the latest trend in an article in the Observer, which mentioned the work of TRO.

February

There was more press coverage of shared reading, this time in The Guardian as journalist Lynsey Hanley spoke about our work alongside her own experiences of finding support in fiction.

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…

March

Eamee's awardThe 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!

Elsewhere we celebrated World Read Aloud Day doing what we do best – need we say any more?

April

G31A6964After a good old tidy and the placing of some Readerly touches – including lots of cake – we opened the doors to Calderstones Mansion House for two public open days, inviting people to Connect With Us at Calderstones. We were expecting a few hundred – an amazing 1,200 people came to the Mansion House and shared their hopes, dreams and memories with us.

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.

May

Jane and Andy 2 72dpiShared 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.

June

Issue 50 cover online versionIt 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.

‘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: http://www.thereader.org.uk/magazine.aspx

Get Into Reading: Reducing Implicit Prejudice

Four women talk about The Unforgotten Coat outdoorsThis week, we were pointed towards a rather insightful article about a piece of psychological research by one of our partners in Belgium, Dirk Terryn. Dirk has been part of our ongoing work in developing a shared reading partnership with the city of Antwerp and the wider region of Flanders, led by the city council’s education service, which has played a huge role in taking the work of The Reader Organisation to an international level.

The research, which was carried out by the Association for Psychological Science (APS) and published in their journal Psychological Science, focused on the prevalence and tendency of implicit prejudice; particularly across different cultures and ethnicities. The article (which can be read here) describes how this sort of prejudice is often caused by a lack of knowledge or lack of understanding about a particular (or indeed, several) culture(s), and how the APS research showed that increased connection and exposure to members of a cultural group is likely to decrease our prejudice towards it.

More specifically though, the research showed that even a brief opportunity to take part in another’s culture can vastly improve intergroup attitudes, even months down the line. Cues for participation or connection as small or insignificant as, for example, a shared birthday, have been shown to bring people together, eventually even leading them to share common goals and motivations.

In a way, this is what The Reader Organisation is trying to achieve through Get Into Reading, our shared reading scheme that takes place in a variety of settings throughout the country, every day and every week. The bringing together of people from various backgrounds and walks of life to sit within a small group of about 5 – 8 people is what, first of all, creates an opening; an opportunity for communication and social connection between those very people.

After that, the various perceptions and meanings that are often steadily teased out from the text which the group may be reading is the second step. This is essentially the creating and strengthening of shared meanings, often across social and cultural boundaries , which is what Get Into Reading is all about. Members of a group can and often do find that they have things in common, which inevitably leads to social relationships being forged outside of the group. And over longer periods of time, many begin to share personal feelings or anecdotes that are unwittingly brought to the surface by the nature of the various texts.

The researchers at APS do note, however, that the positive effects of the study are very much dependent on people feeling that they have “freely chosen to participate and engage in cultural activities”. Making people feel obligated to take part can, therefore, reduce these benefits and even possibly have an adverse effect.

Group members are not encouraged to participate in Get Into Reading groups with the aim or motive to improve their understanding of another’s culture. Reasons for attendance at a GIR group will obviously vary massively for many people, being highly dependable on the setting, nature and purpose of the group; not to mention the personal reasons of the readers themselves. But multicultural interaction does take place regularly across GIR groups, and is without a doubt one of the most valued benefits.

Just take this view from a London-based reader who moved to the UK from Madrid and decided to participate in a GIR group to familiarise herself with British culture and have more opportunity to practice her English. She said:

It’s nice to arrive and be greeted with such kindness. The reading of fragments that are then discussed at a not-too-big a table with a cup of tea in hand creates an intimate atmosphere conducive to sharing impressions, feelings and experiences. Our coordinator, Val (also Penny and others), plays a key role as she keeps the cadence, encourages us to talk, touches points to develop and contributes, like the others, with her personal experiences that enrich the conversation. Val’s high intelligence, skills and sensitivity make it a particularly pleasant and interesting experience.

My group has been very generous to me and Val and the other members take the time to explain to me what I might miss because English is not my native language, because I did not grow up here, or for whatever reason. The time shared has favoured the development of personal relationships and more than once I have found myself sharing concerns as well as good and bad personal news.

MRL_5410-2

We may perhaps say then that multicultural interaction is a secondary outcome, or ‘byproduct’ of Get Into Reading…it strives to improve connections amongst people within communities, which may or not include those from contrasting social and cultural backgrounds. This is the beauty of Get Into Reading – the fact that no two groups are ever the same in their composition, and the fact that new and unforeseen outcomes are making themselves known all the time.

Reducing implicit cultural prejudice may just be another of these many wonderful outcomes. While it is perhaps not always the aim, it is certainly always most welcome.