A big move for TRO in the South West

SW office 1
TRO’s South West team have arrived in their new office

The Reader Organisation’s South West team has been operating since 2011 – in the space of just over three years they have recruited and bid farewell to colleagues, expanding the reach of shared reading across the region from Cornwall all the way across to Gloucestershire.

And we can announce some exciting news – having spent these years without a central office and working remotely, the South West team now have their very own premises, based in Plymouth Central Library in Devon. Moving is something we’ve been used to lately, as just over a month ago we relocated our Liverpool HQ from West Everton to the Coach House at Calderstones Mansion.

Jennifer McDerra, The Reader Organisation’s South West Development Manager, fills us in on the big move:

‘In ceiling, floor and windows, we are given to where we have been…’

The South West team have all been working from home since shared reading began here, as well as in various lobbies and cafes, so we’re really looking forward to sharing ideas, tea, and anecdotes in a room of our own – and welcoming our volunteers and visitors.

There are poems, ideas, and maps on the walls already, and we’ve had and won a fight with a crumbling thirty year old phone system. Thanks to the supreme talents of TRO’s IT and Facilities Manager Craig Bentley, we are now on broadband faster than everyone else in Plymouth!

It was lovely selecting resources with the People and Support team at TRO HQ in September to create that irreplaceable back-to-school feeling – trundling down from Liverpool to Plymouth by train with a suitcase containing the entire contents of the new office felt like something of a pilgrimage.

SW office 2
Making the office feel Readerly…

It’s great timing, as we will soon be welcoming a new member of staff, Sarah Dangar, who will be the Team Leader responsible for operational management of the South West. Sarah and I will work be working full-time from the office, joined by the South West team members from Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire in-between delivering their shared reading groups.

The process I’ve witnessed on the occasions when I’ve visited Liverpool during the office move from WECC to Calderstones Mansion and Coach House, and the one we’ve undertaken in securing premises in the South West has brought to mind many pieces of literature about place and belonging, but mostly the recurring sense of how we imbue places with meaning, the importance of walls and floors and windows reminded me of Brendan Kennelly’s We Are Living:

What is this room

But the moments we have lived in it?

When all due has been paid

To gods of wood and stone

And recognition has been made

Of those who’ll breathe here when we are gone

Does it not take its worth from us

Who made it because we were here?

As a team, we’re looking forward to welcoming our colleagues from the rest of the country to our new home, and continuing to create strong shared reading connections throughout the South West which link up to the work going on across the UK. Thanks to the staff at Plymouth Central Library for their considerable efforts in preparing the space for us and making us welcome.

For more information on our shared reading projects in South West England, see our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/where-we-work/south-west

You can also get updates from the team in their lovely new office – and from all around the South West –  by following @TheReaderSW on Twitter.

Volunteering with The Reader Organisation in Devon

reading 1The Reader Organisation’s volunteering presence is about to grow in South West England, as we look for more people to help us continue to develop our shared reading projects in the area.

We’ve already got valued volunteers on board with us in Wiltshire reading with people living with dementia, and now we’re recruiting for volunteer group facilitators for our community shared reading project in Devon.

Applicants will join us to run Feel Better with a Book groups at libraries in Exeter, Tiverton and Cullompton. Funded by Devon County Council and run by The Reader Organisation, Feel Better with a Book groups provide a stimulating environment where people can meet weekly to connect with each other through the shared reading of great literature. This opportunity will give you the chance to become part of The Reader Organisation in the South West, receiving fully funded training, as well as engage with literature on a fresh and emotionally stimulating perspective.

For a short amount of time – one and a half hours per week – you will be acting as an assistant group facilitator in a weekly Feel Better with a Book group before training to independently facilitate the same group. We ask for a minimum of a one year commitment, but the opportunity is ongoing and can last for as long as you and your group want it to.

This position will also benefit from a free place on The Reader Organisation’s revolutionary Read to Lead training, a three-day course in shared reading which will qualify you as a shared reading practitioner able to facilitate in community settings. The three day training will take place at The Hayridge Centre, Cullompton, Devon from Tuesday 25th – Thursday 27th November.

One of current volunteers in Devon explains what volunteering with The Reader Organisation means to her:

“I saw the opportunity to be a ‘Read to Lead’  volunteer as a way of combining what I most enjoy; being in conversation with people of all ages and reading wonderful literature together.  I am learning new ways of appreciating others’ thoughts and responses to what has been read, as well as becoming better at listening and staying focused in general.   The group is fun, engaging and relaxed at the same time. I have been reading a lot more on my own steam too – as a result of feeling inspired to do so.  This is volunteering at its best for me!”

If you have excellent literacy and comprehension, are good at reading aloud or willing to learn to improve your skills, have the ability to manage group dynamics and a desire to relate to people in an open and human way, you could become a Volunteer Assistant Group Facilitator with us in Devon.

For more information on volunteering with us in Devon, please contact Emily Lezzeri: emilylezzeri@thereader.org.uk or call 07450 167788, and see our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/south-west

Full details of our open Feel Better with a Book groups running across Devon and the South West can be found on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us

HRH Duchess of Cornwall joins the Reading Revolution

Dutchess of wales joins shared reading Group
Jennifer McDerra, South West Development Manager, Ciara Eastell, Head of Libraries, Culture and Heritage at Devon County Council, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and Rose, Ivor and Rosemary enjoy the shared reading session. Photo credit: jenny steer at jennysteer.co.uk

One of The Reader Organisation’s regular shared reading groups in South West England got the royal seal of approval this week as a very special guest joined in for a session…

Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall visited the group, which is specifically for people living with dementia, at the reopening of Exeter Library. Alongside group members, the Duchess enjoyed some pieces of great literature as they were read aloud, proving to be a wonderful addition to the Royal tour of the South West.

The Reader Organisation has been working in libraries across the region as part of our work sharing literature with older people. Specifically we run a number of weekly shared reading groups especially for those living with dementia and other memory loss conditions which are aimed at stimulating memories, providing engagement and giving a space for older people to connect with literature they have loved from years past as well as discovering new material in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. There is a growing body of evidence regarding the positive effects of shared reading groups nationwide to the health and wellbeing of those living with dementia which indicates that not only do groups allow members to share thoughts, feelings and memories as they read but also aid in reducing social isolation through their communal setting. More information, including a download of the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems at the University of Liverpool (CRILS) research report on shared reading as an Intervention for Older People living with Dementia, can be found on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/what-we-do-and-why/older-people-dementia

The Duchess is known for being a literature lover and continues to work to promote the benefits of reading, especially amongst children and young people, and enjoyed reading throughout the day with the official reopening of Exeter Library which includes thousands of new books upon the shelves. As well as listening to the extracts as they were shared her Royal Highness also spoke to Jennifer McDerra, The Reader Organisation’s South West Development Manager, about our work in the area and across the country.

Our first Royal member of the Reading Revolution – perhaps Her Majesty will also be taking part in a spot of shared reading before very long…?

The Reader Organisation currently runs shared reading projects across South West England, in Devon, Cornwall, Plymouth, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. For more information see our website http://www.thereader.org.uk/where-we-work/south-west and to keep up with the latest from our South West team, make sure you follow them on Twitter: @TheReaderSW

The Reader South West Update: More Library Memory Groups underway


Project Worker for Wiltshire Josephine in one of her groups (Credit: Wiltshire Times)
Project Worker for Wiltshire Josephine in one of her groups (Credit: Wiltshire Times)

The Reader Organisation’s work sharing reading across South West England is expanding – not only does our South West team have their very own Twitter page which has over 130 followers, but we’re delighted to announce that TRO now has its first Project Worker operating in Gloucestershire, new territory for shared reading in the South West. Claire Pickard joined us at the beginning of June and will be running Library Memory Groups across the area which start this month.

Our Library Memory Groups, especially for people with memory loss and their carers, have been running in Devon since 2012 and Wiltshire since the start of this year. The groups are designed to be relaxed and informal, sharing a wide range of poetry read aloud which allow memories to be stimulated. As well as generating reading experiences, we’ve also been involving volunteers with a view to continuing the groups in the future.

Josephine Corcoran, Project Worker for Wiltshire, shares her experiences of the first six months of the Library Memory Groups in Wiltshire:

Aside from recruiting to the groups, the shared reading sessions themselves are developing well and are often moving, joyful, interesting and enjoyable occasions for everyone involved.  I’ve shifted towards reading more poetry and less prose with most groups – although each setting is different and I try to choose literature which appeals to the interests and tastes of different people.  Poetry has the advantage of being short, so that reading it aloud, several times and by different groups members, is more manageable.

Recently popular with all of my groups were the eight sonnets which make up ‘Clearances’ by Seamus Heaney, written in memory of his mother.  The poems recall stories and anecdotes from the poet’s life, detailing family histories passed down from his mother and his memories of being with her as a boy and young adult and later as a grown man as she lay on her death bed and in the moments after her death.

Reading these poems provoked much discussion.  Although Heaney was writing about Ireland, many group members, ranging in age from in their sixties to in their early ninties, recalled their own feelings about Catholicism and Protestantism in England when they were growing up.  One man remembered walking past a Catholic Church every day as a child and “knowing that there was something strange there.”  Other members recalled rifts in families when people from different religions married.

There was a lot of discussion about the way that acquired knowledge can provoke division in a family and that although parents might aspire for their children to be more educated than they were, the ensuing differences don’t always make family matters straight forward: “With more challenge than pride, she’d tell me, ‘You / Know all them things.’.

I suppose this sequence of poems was universally popular with my groups because the sonnets deal with subject matter familiar to many people.  We spent one whole session discussing Sonnet 3 which relates the moments when the poet’s mother dies.  Not every person responds verbally as we’re reading and discussing the poems.  Everyone has varying degrees of dementia and some people are not able, or choose not to, speak.  There is no pressure or expectation of anyone to do so.  I try to keep good eye contact while I’m reading aloud so that I can gauge people’s engagement and interest.  Sometimes smiles, nods, sighs (of pleasure or of irritation!) help me understand if people are connecting to the text.

To read the original post in full, visit Josephine’s blog: http://josephinecorcoran.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/reading-with-people-who-have-dementia-in-wiltshire/

Library Memory Groups will be starting this month in Gloucestershire, in Tewkesbury Library on Wednesdays from 11am-12pm and Newent Library on Wednesdays from 3-4pm. For further information, please follow The Reader South West on Twitter @TheReaderSW and visit our website where you will find new pages for Gloucestershire and all the other areas of the South West we are currently working in: http://www.thereader.org.uk/where-we-work/south-west.aspx


D’s Reader Story

MRL_5280The Reader Organisation runs weekly shared reading groups in the South West of England, with a particular focus on improving health and stimulating wellbeing through shared reading. We currently work in Cornwall, Plymouth, Wiltshire and Devon within libraries and community centres, helping to stimulate memories for people with memory loss and encouraging a greater sense of wellbeing with our Feel Better with a Book groups. In particular, shared reading has been commissioned for recovery pathways across the area, with it being one way of contribution to promoting good health for people of all ages and backgrounds at all stages in life.

Recently, one of our long term group members in Exmouth told us about how the shared reading sessions they are attending on a regular basis coupled with other measures is contributing to their continued road to recovery in their personal mental health. D tells us more about their own experiences of shared reading below:

Quite simply I am beginning to open my eyes as if in a coma for over forty years.  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.  A blind man who can suddenly see is much more thankful for the miracle of sight and appreciates everything that much more;  so it is with me.

The part you are playing in this transformation is that I picked up a book  (I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai  –  which seems appropriate) and for the first time for a lengthy period of time began reading,  with an awakened thirst for knowledge,  enthusiasm,  and much anticipated interest;  something I have not done till pre-breakdown times,  stretching back to 1972.  This might seem like an ordinary event but it makes a significant benchmark in my progress back to health.

Your encouragement  has inspired me to voluntarily pick up a book (which I have found impossible to do for a long time) and has renewed in me the urge to resume the old habit of reading.  I was once an avid reader but my brain just shut down on the advent of the illness.  I am once again discovering the joy of settling down to a good read.  All this might appear trivial,  but I thank you for instilling into me hope and making the impossible a real possibility.

We wish D all the best on their continued journey and discovery of a reinvigorated love of literature.

If you would like to find out more about our work in the South West, including the open community groups we currently run across the area, please see our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/where-we-work/south-west or contact The Reader Organisation’s South West Development Manager Jennifer McDerra: jennifermcderra@thereader.org.uk

You can also follow our team in the South West for the latest updates on their Twitter account: @TheReaderSW

Discover more of our Readers Stories sharing their experiences of shared reading from across the UK on our website:  http://www.thereader.org.uk/reader-stories


“It’s unbelievably moving and a real joy”: Shared reading and volunteering in Wiltshire

reading 1Since January this year, The Reader Organisation have been running weekly Library Memory Groups in libraries across Wiltshire. Funded by Wiltshire Council and NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Library Memory Groups provide a stimulating environment where people with memory loss and those who care for them meet weekly to connect with each other through shared reading. Within the short space of time they have been set up the groups have proved popular, attracting coverage from BBC Radio Wiltshire and Wiltshire Times.

As the project continues, we are looking for volunteers to become Assistant Group Facilitators in our Library Memory Groups in Mere, Pewsey, Purton and Warminster Libraries.This opportunity will give you the chance to make a difference to the lives of people with memory loss, and to become part of The Reader Organisation in the South West, receiving fully funded training and the chance to go on to complete our revolutionary Read to Lead training free of charge. For a short amount of time – one and a half hours a week – you will help to make a significant impact within the community, as well as enjoying literature from a fresh and emotionally stimulating perspective.

Current South West volunteer Justine Wall volunteers at our Library Memory Group at Warminster Library on Wednesdays, 11.30am-1pm. Here, she shares her story of why reading – and particularly reading with people with memory loss – is so important to her:

My background is in English teaching, secondary trained, and I do love books. In particular, working with people with memory loss with reading is what I wanted to do because I believe in that pure, simple pleasure of reading. I also think that it’s something that’s taken away with a lot of other support groups that can happen for people with memory loss – literature can be forgotten, and so for me that was really important to see, that we celebrated it again.

The reading is of paramount importance, and what I enjoy is seeing the reaction of people. I thought it would be beneficial and I thought I would see it; what I wasn’t prepared for was the extent to which it happens; 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.

Being in the group has taught me to put the analytical and critical side of myself aside sometimes and simply look at the text for enjoyment and a nudge for memory and nostalgia, which is a lot more important. It’s very interesting to have memories that people speak about but we root it all in the text. I also enjoy the calmness that comes from reading the text at a slower pace, it’s lovely.

I would encourage anybody who’s the slightest bit interest to get involved because it’s incredibly manageable; I’m here for an hour and a half, there’s a variety of libraries to choose from that people can take part in, and to see the effect it has on other people and on oneself is worth it.

Read more from Justine on her experience of shared reading and volunteering with TRO on her blog: http://www.hectorandhaddock.com/blogs/news/12524869-read-to-me

If you have excellent literacy and comprehension, are good at reading aloud or willing to learn to improve your skills, have the ability to manage group dynamics and a desire to relate to people in an open and human way, you could become a Volunteer Assistant Group Facilitator with us in Wiltshire. We ask for a one year commitment but the opportunity is ongoing and can last for as long as you and your group want it to, and The Reader Organisation will give full support.

For more information on volunteering with us in Wiltshire, please contact Josephine Corcoran: josephinecorcoran@thereader.org.uk or call 07812 238503, and see our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/south-west

Library Memory Groups in Wiltshire currently run on Wednesdays (Warminster and Mere) and Thursdays (Purton and Pewsey), for full details of groups in the South West, visit our Reading With Us group map on our website.

We ask for a one year commitment but the opportunity is ongoing and can last for as long as you and your group want it to – See more at: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/south-west.aspx#sthash.ToU6IHbB.dpuf
This opportunity will give you the chance to make a difference to the lives of people with memory loss, and to become part of The Reader Organisation in the South West, receiving fully funded training. – See more at: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/south-west.aspx#sthash.xsaEYXmr.dpuf
Funded by Wiltshire Council and NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group and run by The Reader Organisation, Library Memory Groups to provide a stimulating environment where people with memory loss and those who care for them meet weekly to connect with each other through shared reading. – See more at: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/south-west.aspx#sthash.xsaEYXmr.dpuf
Funded by Wiltshire Council and NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group and run by The Reader Organisation, Library Memory Groups to provide a stimulating environment where people with memory loss and those who care for them meet weekly to connect with each other through shared reading. – See more at: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/south-west.aspx#sthash.xsaEYXmr.dpuf

The Reader Organisation’s Annual Report 2012/13

annual report 201213The Reader Organisation’s Annual Report for 2012/13 is available to read and download now on our website. Covering our activities and achievements from April 2012-March 2013, it’s full of headlines, highlights and Reader Stories from our work across the UK and beyond.

As we continue to develop our vision for the International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing at Calderstones Mansion House, our Annual Report 2012/13 showcases how far shared reading has come in the past 10 years, growing from its home in Wirral to reach across Liverpool and the wider North West region, London, South West and Scotland. The connection that comes from shared reading is now being felt in a number of varied settings, ranging from within the community to Criminal Justice settings to the corporate sector. Thanks to growing support we have been able to expand our activities to include a pioneering Volunteer programme across Merseyside, increased learning opportunities and publications offering what is at the heart of everything we do – great literature.

Looking through the report gives us much to reflect on, but undoubtedly the most powerful testimonies come from our Readers themselves, some of whom joined us at our AGM last November – the first to be held at Calderstones Mansion House.

“If you don’t talk about them and hear yourself speaking about it, it will stay in your head and you can’t get to a resolution. In the reading group we talk about things that people don’t usually talk about.” – G, shared reading group member, London

As we enter a 2014 with many exciting things in store for the reading revolution, it’s well worth taking a look at the strides that have been made so far.

You can read through or alternatively download The Reader Organisation’s Annual Report 2012/13 on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/who-we-are/annual-report.aspx

Shared reading comes to Wiltshire

books and tea reading circleAs a New Year approaches, we’re looking forward to even more shared reading across the UK as The Reader Organisation’s current work in the South West is expanding into the county of Wiltshire. Building upon our previous work in Devon, we are introducing new Library Memory Groups for people with memory loss and their carers across Wiltshire, in partnership with Wiltshire Council, starting in January 2014.

Wiltshire received its first taste of shared reading at a special seasonal session in Mere Library, the venue for one of our new Library Memory Groups, last week – which went down a treat with those who came along. Our Wiltshire Project Worker Josephine Corcoran tells us more:

We ate mince pies and read a short extract from A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas (featured in A Little, Aloud) which had members talking about their memories of snow piles that buried their front doors!  They had to shovel their way out.  The snowy landscape made others remember the milkman and his horse bringing the milk which was frozen solid in the glass bottles.  One member’s favourite line was “….and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining room, and the gong was bombilating…”  We all agreed that was such a good word – it really seems to describe the sound the gong would make!  One lady had a gong although she’d never used it. Perhaps she would, she said, if her house was on fire like Mrs Prothero’s house.

Then it was on to sharing two poems: Innocents Song by Charles Causeley and Minstrels by William Wordsworth.  We talked a lot about the following lines “Why does he ferry my fireside / As a spider on a thread, / His fingers made of fuses / And his tongue of gingerbread?”  It made one man think of all the pictures you see looking into an open fire.  We talked about the way the poem started off seemingly innocent but how it soon became much darker. “How can you ferry a fireside?” one man asked. Someone said it seemed that someone was crossing in front of the fire, weaving his way like a spider.

The ‘minstrels’ in William Wordsworth’s poem reminded people of carol singers in the village of Mere.  “So stout and hardy were the band / That scraped the chords with strenuous hand.”  “Mmm, yes”, said one member, “that’s like some of the people in a folk band that I know.”  When we read the poem for a final time one man joined in cheerfully with the final lines: “Duly pronounced with lusty call, / And “Merry Christmas” wished to all.”

We have four new Library Memory Groups especially for people with memory loss and their carers starting in Wiltshire in January:

  • Mere Library, Barton Lane, Mere, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 6JA, 2.30-4pm (starts Wednesday 8th January 2014)
  • Purton Library, High Street, Purton, Wiltshire SN5 4AA, 11.30-1pm (starts Thursday 16th January 2014)
  • Pewsey Library, Ashton Close, Pewsey, Wiltshire SN9 5EQ, 2.30-4pm (starts Thursday 16th January 2014)
  • Warminster Library, Three Horseshoes Walk, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 9BT, 11.30am-1pm (starts Wednesday 22nd January 2014)

For full details about our Library Memory Groups and our work in the South West, see our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/where-we-work/south-west.aspx

For more information about our Wiltshire projects and other shared reading happenings in the South West, follow the team on Twitter: @TheReaderSW

Devon MP to visit Feel Better With A Book

This week’s meeting of our weekly Feel Better With A Book group in Totnes Library, Devon will be a particularly special one as Dr Sarah Wollaston MP is visiting to find out more about the pioneering scheme in the South West andshare some reading as well as discuss the Government’s new Care Bill.

back cover of book black and whiteEarlier this year, Devon County Council invested a further £100,000 in Get Into Reading in the area, joining forces with The Reader Organisation to expand the successful year-long pilot programme and create Reading Together in Devon – a county-wide network five of Library Memory Groups for those with memory loss conditions and their carers, and seven Feel Better with A Book groups for those wanting to lift their mood and engage with others for enjoyment and general support.

Each week, Feel Better With A Book groups are providing a positive experience to members with a variety of different needs, including carers and ex-carers, people with anxiety/depression and in mental health recovery, people bereaved and socially isolated amongst others. The benefits of connecting with great literature and other people are having a great effect:

‘I feel uplifted after coming here, not tired anymore’

‘I was so elated when I went home last week, that I got out of my wheelchair and stepped around the room’

The Totnes Feel Better With A Book group is every Friday in the School Room of Totnes Library, 2-3.30pm. Tomorrow’s session (Friday 23rd August) will include an informal open meeting with Dr Sarah Wollaston MP at 3-3.45pm where anyone who has mental or physical vulnerabilities, or cares for someone who does, will have the opportunity to ask questions and find out more about the government’s new Care Bill.

Find out more about the Feel Better With A Book project and our work in the South West by visiting the Where We Work section of our website. Full details of all of our current open weekly shared reading in Devon can be found on our Reading With Us group map and the Devon County Council website.

May’s Masterclass: A Novel Approach

novelsA Novel Approach: What a novel brings to your shared reading group
Saturday 18th May, 10am-4pm
Cullompton Library, Exeter

Looking to start reading a novel with your shared reading group, but not sure how to go about it? Perhaps you’re already reading novels and are looking to refine your practice? Are you interested in the special quality that novels have when read aloud together?

This special Saturday Masterclass, led by The Reader Organisation’s Literary Learning Manager and The Reader magazine regular Casi Dylan, will cover all aspects of working with novels, from selection through to conclusion, and will make the case for working through longer works of fiction as a group.

“The final test for a novel will be our affection for it, as it is the test of our friends, and of anything else which we cannot define.” – E.M.Forster

Masterclasses are especially for Shared Reading Practitioners who have attended Read to Lead as part of The Reader Organisation’s Ongoing Learning provision, designed to improve shared reading practice and deepen understanding as a reader.

The last few places on this special weekend Masterclass in Exeter are available – places are free if you are within your first year of Ongoing Learning, and £55 otherwise. This cost includes lunch.

For more information on this Masterclass and to book your place, please contact Literary Learning Coordinator Roisin Hyland on roisinhyland@thereader.org.uk or call 0151 207 7207, with the details of the Read to Lead course you attended.