Earlier this year, we announced the news that there are now over 500 Shared Reading groups running across the UK. Here on the blog, we’ll regularly shine the spotlight on those groups taking place up and down the country each week. Our journey starts in lovely Somerset …
The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis has been in Bristol to thank the South West region’s volunteers for their powerful efforts to build the Reading Revolution.
Volunteer Reader Leader Melanie Devine honoured by Taunton-Deane Mayor in Citizenship Awards.
“If this life of ours
Be a good glad thing, why should we make us merry
Because a year of it is gone?”
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson
It’s been a year of merriment as well as hard work, development and much Shared Reading around the UK, but before we close the momentous chapter of 2015, we want to take a little look back on just a few of the highlights of the past twelve months at The Reader.
From Liverpool, via Leicestershire, to London – Shared Reading across the country
Our Shared Reading model reaches people of all ages, demographics and settings, and in 2015 we’ve been able to bring Shared Reading to new places, as well as extending it across regions we’re already working in.
In Liverpool, there’s been a strong focus on our projects with children and young people where we’re encouraging a love of reading for pleasure from an early age, along with our partners at City of Readers. We’ve been delighted to help lead the way with reading as an early intervention in nurseries across the city and have ensured that a legacy can continue with little ones, parents and carers by the distribution of 300 Story Time boxes to nurseries and families. Our Off The Page project – our biggest volunteering project to date – started its three-year journey, reaching disadvantaged young people across the city with one-to-one weekly reading sessions that show how fulfilling connecting with books can be. Over in the Wirral, we started a similar project for Looked After Children, funded by Children in Need.
It’s been a big year for new projects in the North West, with Shared Reading coming to Knowsley, Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester, with groups for the community, older people living with dementia and carers. In Sheffield we celebrated the last four years of Shared Reading across Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust with a special event, and extended our volunteer-led project with Leicestershire Libraries in Leicester.
In the Southern parts of the country, our London projects went strength to strength with reading for wellbeing across South London, funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and the Maudsley Charity, a new memory loss group in conjunction with Tesco as part of our Barnet project and volunteering opportunities in West London. We brought Shared Reading to Somerset and our Wiltshire project for people living with dementia and memory loss became an award winner.
‘Great things are done when Men and Mountains meet’ – Shared Reading and Events
2015 was another year for wonderful events, many of which took place at our base at Calderstones Mansion. We welcomed Nicolette Jones and Frank Cottrell Boyce for a celebration of the 100 Modern Children’s Classics, hosted a summer spectacular of theatre which included the return of Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour with the classic Romeo and Juliet, brought together literature, art and music with Ad Hoc Creative EXPO and brought together more than a hundred of our group members, volunteers and trustees at an inspiring AGM.
We joined forces with City of Readers and Beanstalk to bring a day of reading across five locations in Liverpool with Anytime is Storytime in the summer, and brought something very Big to Calderstones in the form of The Big Dig, the first archaeological dig at the park to involve volunteers from the local community. Taking on big challenges was something of a theme this year as our team in North Wales organised the highest ever Shared Reading group at the peak of Mount Snowdon, overcoming all difficulties and perilous weather conditions.
The year rounded off in fine style with the twelfth annual Penny Readings at St George’s Hall. Another sell-out festive extravaganza saw captivating performances from Frank Cottrell Boyce, Maxine Peake and Shaun Evans.
A Year of The Reader – and other Great News
The Reader offered up more literary goodness and thought-provoking pieces throughout 2015, with issues offering contributions and interviews from names including Tim Parks, Ken Loach, Salley Vickers, David Constantine, Bill Bailey and Blake Morrison.
The value of Shared Reading continued to make an impact as we were shortlisted for the Social Enterprise Network Powerful Together Awards and the 2015 Natwest SE100 Awards, along with 21 other organisations in the UK. Our status as a social enterprise doing good for health and wellbeing rose as we were part of a rising contingent in the North West on the SE100 Index; even better news when we’re rapidly expanding our social enterprise work at Calderstones Mansion.
Our year ended with two big pieces of news that will ensure that our work can reach many more people who will benefit from Shared Reading can continue into the future. In November, we were delighted to continue our partnership with Social Business Trust as they awarded us funding and business support worth £1.5million which will help us to reach 27,000 people by 2018. Earlier this month we were able to secure the future of the International Centre for Reading at Calderstones with a confirmed grant of nearly £2million from Heritage Lottery Fund, rebuilding the future of Calderstones whilst celebrating its past heritage.
All of this made us very happy indeed – very appropriate considering that Jane made the Independent on Sunday’s Happy List this year!
We’re looking forward to the year to come, with two big things on the horizon early on – the launch of The Storybarn and A Little, Aloud With Love, the newest member of the A Little, Aloud anthology series. There’ll be lots more to come, including more stories from our group members and readers, and so as 2016 approaches we’re embracing Lord Tennyson’s outlook:
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
From all at The Reader, we wish you a happy and restful festive season.
The weekend just gone saw two phenomenons of nature, the most talked-about being that of the solar eclipse. Though we experienced 85% partial eclipse here in the UK, the clouds made it seem rather less spectacular than it really was – a shame, as now we have to wait until September 2090 until the next one. By coincidence, the Vernal Equinox took place on the same day. The arrival of Spring is something we can all take part in whatever the skies overhead look like, though we hope those clouds clear up soon to leave us with more suitable sunshine.
As the seasons change and we get a spring in our step, this poem by Walt Whitman has left us pondering. One of our shared reading groups in Cornwall recently enjoyed it alongside their reading of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The Reader Organisation’s Reader-in-Residence for Cornwall Sally Sweeney tells us more:
The poem takes you on a journey through nature and through human life. On the page, the constant repetition, at the start of each line, of the words; ‘and’, ‘the’ and ‘they’ can seem a bit clunky at first glance. However, the almost hypnotic rhythm created by those repeated words, and the vast array of images described, make it wonderful to read aloud.
We could have talked about it all afternoon – definitely needs a good 45 minutes to do it justice!
Why not take some time out of your Monday to have a read and relax into what we hope will be a far sunnier week from here.
There was a Child went Forth
There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.
The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;
And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass’d on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass’d—and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek’d girls—and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.
His own parents,
He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave him afterward every day—they became part of him.
The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture—the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay’d—the sense of what is real—the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank’d wharves—the huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide—the little boat slack-tow’d astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.
A huge congratulations go to The Reader Organisation in the South West, who were winners at the Wiltshire Public Health Awards last night.
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:
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:
Yesterday we brought you the first part of our highlights from 2014 – from feeling Better with a Book to Shakespeare to a visit from a Royal guest…
Here’s the second part of what happened at The Reader Organisation this year:
Our research partners CRILS at the University of Liverpool are seeking to set the world agenda in reading, health and wellbeing and the role of literature in modelling creative thinking about human existence. Contributing to a growing evidence base, three new reports were published this year by CRILS with partners including the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen NHS Hospital Trust which demonstrate the impacts of shared reading to participants in groups in a range of settings.
Specific studies examining a literature-based intervention for people living with chronic pain and development of research into how shared reading improves quality of life for people living with dementia brought forth a number of positive findings, and the intrinsic cultural value of The Reader Organisation’s weekly shared reading groups in providing a meaningful experience for different sectors of communities was also brought into the spotlight. All three reports can be read in detail on our website.
This year we created many more shared reading practitioners around the UK and internationally with our revolutionary Read to Lead course. We’ve worked with a range of organisations in places including Calderstones Mansion House, Sheffield, Leicester, Derry, Durham, Devon, and Flanders in Belgium – equipping hundreds of people with the skills to share reading in their workplaces and communities.
Our Ongoing Learning programme brought more Masterclasses touring around the country, and there was a brilliant programme of Short Courses for Serious Readers throughout the year discovering a wealth of great literature from varying topics and eras including The Divine Comedy by Dante, a Whizz-tour through the World of Children’s Literature and learning to Feel the Fear and Read it Anyway with selections of challenging literature.
We were delighted to have our impact recognised on a local and national scale by being shortlisted for the Culture Champion award in the Powerful Together Awards for Social Enterprises across Merseyside and the Resilence category at the RBS SE100 Awards – both amazing achievements.
Our Founder and Director Jane Davis was nominated for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the Northern heats and shortlisted for Social Enterprise UK’s Women’s Champion Award.
There were plenty of other wonderful things we took part in this year, including a global celebration of reading aloud on World Read Aloud Day, bringing shared reading to the bill at Latitude Festival, combining poetry with the great outdoors on World Mental Health Day and delivering taster sessions at the Literary Kitchen Festival in South London.
This year also saw the expansion of our work into other areas of communal life, namely the opening of The Reader Cafe and The Reader Gallery at Calderstones Mansion House, which have been bustling with people enjoying local exhibitions and a scrumptious selection of food and drink alongside a poem.
In September, we signed a lease with Liverpool City Council for Calderstones Mansion House giving us residency for 125 years, allowing us to begin the next stages of development for the International Centre for Reading – and we also relocated our Head Office to the beautiful surroundings of Calderstones too.
Great literature remains at the heart of what we do and this year we expanded the core of our work, bringing shared reading and its benefits to even more people across the country. We began new projects for people with dementia/memory loss and their carers in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, enabled more volunteers to join us to share reading in London, North Wales, South West and Leicestershire, began a pioneering project with service users, staff and volunteers at Phoenix Futures and employed our first Reader-in-Residence in Sheffield.
“Like a person who is discovering his senses I am becoming aware of the wonders of existence that I once took for granted, but that was cruelly snatched from me by adverse circumstances… I am once again discovering the joy of settling down to a good read.”
Our thanks go out to everyone who has supported us throughout the year – our work could not continue without the valued input of so many people. We hope to keep reading with you for years to come!
You can read more about our work in our Annual Report 2013/14, available on our website.
We’ll be back in the New Year, and until then wish you all a very happy and peaceful festive season.
2014 is fast drawing to a close, and what a year it’s been for us here at The Reader Organisation. Looking back it’s almost hard to believe how much we’ve crammed into the space of twelve months. It’s been a time defined by growth and development, with new shared reading and volunteering projects around the UK, events for all ages and interests with a packed programme at Calderstones Mansion House all year around, a new anthology to add to our bookshelf and our number of staff has surpassed 100.
Before the bells of the New Year ring, we’ve got time to look back on the year that has been…and there’s been so much happening that we’ve had to split it into two parts.
At the start of 2014 we announced Better with a Book, our fifth annual National Conference, which explored the connections between reading great literature, improved mental health and the reduction of social isolation. The British Library Conference Centre was vibrant with interested delegates, all of whom came together for a day focused on the impacts of shared reading. Guest speakers included Lord Melvyn Bragg, who spoke about the effects of reading on his own life and that of his mother, who was diagnosed with dementia; Baroness Estelle Morris, and Dr Alice Sullivan of the Instiute of Education. Most memorable were the personal stories of our Readers, who shared their experiences of how reading has changed their life.
Calderstones Mansion House – the future International Centre for Reading – came to life with a series of special events throughout the year. From Half-Term Hijinks and an Easter Extravaganza for children and the family to historical tours of the Mansion and an authentic 1940s-style Tea Dance, there has been tons for the community to enjoy. We were delighted to welcome back Shakespeare’s Globe for highly praised performances of Much Ado About Nothing, and the Secret Garden opened up to amazed audiences as we held our first Children’s Literature Festival, complete with storytelling, competitions and giant games of Quidditch.
The London Penny Readings returned to the Southbank Centre as part of London Literature Festival, and back in Liverpool the ever popular festive reading and entertainment extravaganza the Penny Readings sold out in record time.
2014 has brought four new issues of The Reader, with contributions from names including Erwin James, Alan Howarth, Margaret Drabble, David Constantine, Maxine Peake, Miriam Gamble and Michael Schmidt.
To mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, co-editor of The Reader and Godfather of The Reader Organisation Brian Nellist compiled a new poetry anthology, On Active Service: 1914-1918, remembering the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people commemorated in their own words.
Media and special appearances
Shared reading has been making headlines again, with the positive effects of reading aloud and the pioneering research of Centre of Research for Reading, Society and Literature (CRILS) being mentioned in The Telegraph and The Independent.
The happenings at Calderstones and the City of Readers project received lots of local press, and reading aloud came to the airwaves as our groups were featured in two programmes on BBC Radio 4. In his series exploring the English language, Stephen Fry looked at the art of reading aloud – “a life-changing business” – featuring input from our some of our group members, who attested to this statement. Calderstones Mansion House also featured in Open Book, being showcased as a ‘reading oasis’ for the community.
Our social media channels are continuing to get people talking about great literature – we have over 8,400 followers on Twitter – with our regional Twitter accounts sparking lots of interest too – and more than 1,700 likes on Facebook.
And over the summer, The Reader South West got a visit from a very special guest at one of our regular groups. Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall enjoyed some shared reading with our group members at Exeter Library while on tour in the area, as well as finding out about our work across the region.
Part 2 of TRO’s Review of 2014 is coming tomorrow.
Today sees the start of a campaign that will hopefully make history and mark the beginning of an annual global celebration of giving.
For the first time, #GivingTuesday has launched in the UK. The campaign started in the US in 2012 as an antidote to the Christmas shopping frenzy – after the chaos of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is all about giving back and making a difference in the true spirit of festive goodwill and charity. The inaugural #GivingTuesday in the UK has already attracted the support of big names including Helen Mirren and Michael Palin, and nearly 800 charities and organisations have signed up to become a partner of #GivingTuesday.
The Reader Organisation is very proud to be one of these partners and we’re delighted to be celebrating a day that is dedicated to giving and spreading awareness of good causes. We know how important it is to unite together to create a sense of belonging, wellbeing and community, as the heart of what we do week in, week out – running our read-aloud, shared reading groups across the country – is all about fostering these emotions and experiences. Our story has been featured on the #GivingTuesday website: http://givingtuesday.org.uk/stories/combat-a-disconnected-world.html
You can join in with our very first #GivingTuesday by helping us celebrate in a number of ways. For #GivingTuesday we have launched our online fundraising appeal for creating an International Centre for Reading at Calderstones Mansion House. In the past 18 months we have welcomed thousands of visitors of all ages to enjoy shared reading and a range of other special activities at the Mansion House, and we need help to raise the remainder of our £4m target to fully restore the Mansion, creating social enterprises, reading rooms and community venues at our beautiful site, which will generate sustainable income and create jobs. Our appeal page is now live, and you can donate £5, £10, £25, £50 or £100 to help us build a home for the heart at Calderstones Mansion: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/calderstonesmansion
A merry band of Reader Runners are getting into the festive spirit and taking part in the 5K Liverpool Santa Dash this coming Sunday 7th December, also fundraising towards Calderstones Mansion. If you haven’t yet braved the shops and are feeling stuck on what to buy your Secret Santa, why not donate the cost to Team TRO’s efforts instead? You can sponsor them here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/readerorg
If you’re feeling the pinch with Christmas approaching then you can still give your time, spare second-hand books or even your voice to TRO. We have a range of volunteering projects happening around the UK, from Merseyside to North London to the South West, all of which are dedicated to reaching more people with shared reading, and you can find out more about getting involved on our website. We’re always in need of second-hand books to engage more people with literature in our bookshop at Calderstones Mansion: you can drop them off at any time at the Mansion House between Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.
You can also give the gift of shared reading to someone by passing a poem along this #GivingTuesday. We have a selection that’s fit to bursting right here on The Reader Online with our Featured Poem archive, or you can read one of your favourites aloud. We particularly like this one by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Give all to love;Obey thy heart;Friends, kindred, days,Estate, good-frame,Plans, credit and the Muse,—Nothing refuse.
’T is a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
But it is a god,
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.
You can find out more about #GivingTuesday on the website: http://givingtuesday.org.uk/welcome.html
The Reader Organisation in South West England have been running Library Memory Groups in Wiltshire in conjunction with Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group for nearly a year now, with the four groups across the region attracting regular members as well as offering volunteering opportunities to people who enjoy reading and have the spare time to assist in facilitating in the groups.
Our Library Memory Groups in Wiltshire currently run in Warminster and Mere Libraries on Wednesdays and Royal Wootton Bassett and Pewsey Libraries on Thursdays (full details on our website). Library Memory Groups are especially designed for people living with dementia and other memory loss conditions as well as their carers to connect through shared reading and in many cases rediscover literature and the many memories and experiences it recalls. The group leader – Josephine – reads the poetry or short stories aloud in each session, allowing the literature to come to life within the room and for the members, with discussions following on.
There’s been a vast range of great literature read at the groups since they began, with a recent WW1 poetry session focusing on In Flanders Fields by John McCrae amongst others:
“One woman liked the mention of larks singing, and said that birds didn’t take any notice of boundaries. She envied them their freedom. Another person thought the description of life, in the second stanza, included below, very beautiful and moving. “It’s so simple, but says everything,” she said, “these are the important things in life: to see dawn, see the sun set, to love and to be loved.” “
As with the rest of our volunteering projects around the UK, our volunteers in our Library Memory Groups are highly valued, helping us to bring shared reading experiences to more people as Assistant Group Facilitators.For a small amount of time each week – one and a half hours – you can make a difference to the lives of people with memory loss, absorb yourself in great literature and receive fully funded training from The Reader Organisation: our next specially commissioned Read to Lead training course in Wiltshire is running in February 2015.
“It is unbelievably moving and it is a real joy. We all seem to know that this is a safe place as well; that everybody can share things and emotions and memories.” – volunteer for The Reader Organisation in Wiltshire
If you’re in Trowbridge, you can get a taste of shared reading in our Library Memory groups at a special Christmas themed taster session at Trowbridge Library on Thursday 18th December, 2-3pm. Come along to relax, read, listen and talk about stories and poems, carers welcome. Contact Josephine at email@example.com or call 07812 238503 for more information. There will be more sessions coming up in the New Year, so stay tuned to our social media channels for more details.
The effect of the sessions can be best seen from this wonderful poem that one of our group members from Royal Wootton Bassett wrote after regularly attending:
Our Reading Day by John Hooper
Thursday, it is our reading day
A day we enjoy in every way
We listen, learn and read
The social side is good indeed
A joke, a laugh, a cup of tea
The enjoyment for all is plain to see
Too soon we leave and go our way
But it sure has added to our day
The Reader Organisation in the South West runs Library Memory Groups in Wiltshire, Devon and Gloucestershire. For full information see the ‘Reading With Us’ page on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us