I represented The Reader at a new social intervention event at the University
of São Paulo, as well as supporting The Danish Reading
Society Laeseforeningen on
a course for new Readers in Brazil.
Earlier this month we were delighted to welcome Kate Middleton (no, not that one!) back to our Liverpool HQ. Kate founded and leads an exciting Shared Reading project called The Reading Revolution in New Zealand.
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!
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.
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,
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.
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:
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.
It 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.
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.
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:
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!