“It is such a meaningful thing to do”: Volunteering in Barnet

DSC_0028The Reader’s volunteer-led projects in Barnet, North London were our first outside of our base in Merseyside and since their start in 2011 they’ve gone from strength to strength, engaging local people in the pleasure – and often, the power – that comes from shared reading.

Our Barnet volunteer projects focus on reading with community groups, memory loss groups and within care and day centre settings for people living with dementia and their carers. We’re working with Jewish Care, Altogether Better and Comic Relief to enable volunteers to receive training and ongoing support to lead groups in pairs, sustaining the shared reading experience for those who we already read with and bringing it to many more people.

Our volunteers in Barnet are from all walks of life and backgrounds – some have joined us after long careers in healthcare and related settings, some have previous experience with sharing reading. Others have experienced the impacts great literature has had on people they are close to, or just simply have a passion for reading that they want to pass onto others.

Jennifer began her volunteering journey with us after regularly attending a shared reading group with her grandmother. She took part in training and went onto run her own group at the care home she worked at. Her story shows how choosing to volunteer can make a change not only to the lives of those who read, but to volunteers themselves:

“I left school with very poor qualifications, but by having the experience of facilitating in shared reading I was led to a more formal course of learning and have since been able to enrol in a course for serious readers, the Reading in Practice MA. I never imagined I would be working towards earning a degree in my whole life so that is a big surprise and benefit for me. It gave me the confidence to leave full-time employment and ask to be a fully-fledged volunteer shared reading facilitator in a community group at Burnt Oak Library. This is good as I have read a lot more short stories and now we are reading a novel together.

You don’t have to have an English degree or any qualifications to be a shared reading facilitator. You just have to be willing to learn a new craft, and be available once a week, ongoing. You equally share the responsibility of running the group with another shared reading facilitator. There is also the support of a network of other volunteers who are all on the journey of becoming shared reading facilitators. Even the best are still learning. You don’t even have to know that much about poems or books.

From admittedly not having a scrap of appreciation for poetry and an increasing sense of shame for not reading very much at all, I have developed a love for poetry and a desire to read. I can’t wait each week to listen to people reading. It is such a rare thing. I feel I have definitely gained more confidence in public speaking. I have far better conversational skills and am able to quote poems, which makes me sound like I have been reading poetry all my life! It makes me feel really clever. Everyone involved is warm and friendly and it is such a meaningful thing to do.

Side effects of volunteering for The Reader: One day down the line, you may have to buy a bookshelf. It might make you visit the library (or even apply for a library card!). You may read that book you have been ignoring for ages. You may develop a love of poetry. You can talk to others about books and poems without any snobbery or pretence. You may make friends. You may want to run more groups. You may be really surprised at what reading together can create. You will definitely enjoy it.”

Read Jennifer’s story in full on our website.

We are now recruiting for more volunteers to join us in Barnet on our Jewish Care, Altogether Better (reading with community groups/community memory loss groups) and Comic Relief (reading with people living with dementia and their carers) projects. Volunteers will be paired to run shared reading groups, with full training and ongoing support from The Reader.

For more information on these opportunities, please contact Paul Higgins: paulhiggins@thereader.org.uk or call 07985 718744. You can also see our website for further details. 

Coming up in Literary Learning

As the days get shorter, we’re definitely not short of opportunities to develop your literary thinking and enjoy some enriching shared reading in great company at The Reader Organisation. In the next month there’s a new Short Course for Serious Readers with a canine theme at Calderstones Mansion House, as well as a Masterclass in Liverpool especially for Read to Lead graduates.

Read on for more of what’s on the Literary Learning calendar later this Autumn…

purebred english Bulldog in glasses and bookShort Courses for Serious Readers: A Dog’s Life
Wednesday 20th November, 10am-1pm
Calderstones Mansion House, Calderstones Park, Liverpool

£15; £10 concessions (Get Into Reading members/income support/students/pensioners)

Loyalty and unconditional love are amongst the important reasons why humans love dogs. From Homer to Hardy, we will read a wide variety of poetry and prose exploring the uncomplicated nature of the human-dog relationship. In this special half-day Short Course for Serious Readers, we will think about our need for joy, companionship and affection and the literary dogs that have seriously valuable lessons to teach about life, love and loss.

Our Short Courses for Serious Readers are perfect for anyone who loves literature to rediscover reading classics in a relaxed setting, allowing you to immerse yourself in texts with guidance from experts and the company of like-minded people. Take a morning for yourself and take a break from life to enjoy some great literature.

Find out more about our Short Courses for Serious Readers on the Courses section of our website. There are a final few places available for ‘The Test of the Sea’ Short Course this coming Saturday 26th October, 10am-4pm at Calderstones Mansion House, where we’ll be reading Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. See our website for all the information on how to book or contact sophiejohnson@thereader.org.uk

November’s Masterclass

MRL_5280‘And Yet the Books’: Reading in Library and Community Settings
Monday 18th November, 5-8pm
Liverpool Central Library

As part of Ongoing Learning, Read to Lead graduates can join us for this special evening Masterclass in Liverpool, focusing on shared reading in library and community settings. Join Helen Wilson to discuss all aspects of shared reading these settings, ranging from publicity and techniques for recruitment to group dynamics and ‘going deeper’ in sessions.

Masterclasses are special sessions exclusively for those who have completed the Read to Lead course and wish to improve their practice as a facilitator and deepen their understanding as a reader, a vital part of Ongoing Learning in the practice of shared reading.

Places on this Masterclass are free within your first year of Ongoing Learning; otherwise they cost £25.
Contact Literary Learning Coordinator Sophie Johnson to reserve your place, and if you wish, request a particular topic for discussion: sophiejohnson@thereader.org.uk
Keep up-to-date on our latest Courses at any time by visiting the Courses section on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/courses.aspx
You can also find out more about what’s going on in the world of Literary Learning by following us on Twitter (@thereaderorg) or liking us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thereaderorg

The Reader Organisation Wins The Social Enterprise Network Growth Award

We are pleased to announce that The Reader Organisation won the Growth award at the Social Enterprise Network Powerful Together Awards last night, recognising our consistent growth, entrepreneurialism and resilience.

awardSocial Enterprise Network is the home of social enterprise in Greater Merseyside. Its annual Powerful Together Awards celebrate the brightest and best local businesses and community organisations that are committed to social value.

The winners were announced at a glittering presentation ceremony last night at the Liverpool Town Hall. The evening was thoroughly enjoyable, involving complimentary wine, delightful food and many, many bespoke SEN cupcakes that The Reader ladies did not hesitate to take away at the end of the night…

We were also runner-up for the Creativity and Healthy Environments awards, which deservedly went to Big Heritage and Heart of Mersey.

The Reader has a strong track record of making ideas happen and creating social impact.  Since 2008, we have doubled our income, increased staff numbers by 200%, and increased our shared reading activity by nearly 300%. The development of projects and teams across the UK mean that Get Into Reading is now reaching more communities than ever before and we currently have sister projects developing in Belgium, Denmark, Northern Ireland and Australia.

One of our most exciting new projects is the development of Calderstones Mansion House into the International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing. This will not only strengthen our position in the North West as a leading facilitator of social change; it will also enable us to uphold this foundation in places across the UK and beyond.

We thank Social Enterprise Network for allowing us to be part of such a great night, and for their hard work in recognising and celebrating new and existing social enterprises on Merseyside.

Volunteering at The Reader Organisation: Arline’s Story

Sharing Reading Experience Masthead large 72dpiAt The Reader Organisation, we’re lucky to work with a growing band of hardworking and dedicated volunteers who are helping us to spread the benefits of shared reading even further across communities. With ongoing support, our volunteers are sharing reading experiences and growing in confidence, as well as doing vital work to develop the Reading Revolution.

We’re currently looking to expand the number of volunteers in our Barnet Volunteering Project in London, where volunteers can read for a minimum of half a day a week in older people’s care and local community settings around the area. More details about the project can be found on our website and here on The Reader Online.

Our Barnet project, the first of its kind in community settings, has already been successful, providing many positive shared reading experiences for readers and volunteers alike. This story comes from one of our volunteer facilitators in Barnet, Arline Blass, who recounts her experience of running a group with residents living with dementia in Rubens House Care Home:

“I began working with this group in March 2013 and have been amazed at the response we get from the regular attendees, two women and two men. They concentrate on the poetry we give them and as the facilitator reads they follow the poem, sometimes reading along with us quietly.

They offer to read out loud to the group and with a little gentle coaxing they often volunteer information from the depths of their memory which has been triggered by something in the poem. Over the weeks they have started to recognise the facilitators and we are often greeted by “Oh it’s the two of them again!”

They genuinely seem to enjoy our sessions and usually thank us at the end and say that they enjoyed it. A care worker told us that one of the ladies has become much more friendly towards other people in the home since she has been coming to the group.

We are tremendously fortunate to have a most sympathetic and able member of staff at our sessions. She helps enormously with her presence and her anticipation of problems that may be arising. On occasions a member of the group just will not feel like participating and will doze off quietly. At other times they can be very talkative and will participate with enthusiasm.

Usually there is a theme to the session and we read two or three poems each time. The group responds well to poems about friendship, love and even the Second World War which brought up memories of having been evacuated and what life was like then.

Once when reading poems on travel, one lady volunteered the information that she had travelled to Cambridge when she was young. When asked why she had gone there, she told us that she had been at Girton College studying mathematics. She must have been one of the first women in the country to study maths and she was very happy to discuss it with the group.

It is interesting to discover that sometimes the group do not respond much to some poems while others will provoke lots of conversation and comments.

Sometimes relatives of the attendees sit in with the group and they remark on how good it is to see their family members participating in an activity which stimulates their memory.

It has been a very enjoyable experience for me as well. It is good to know that you can still be useful in your seventies and contribute to the welfare of others.

I frequently leave the Get into Reading sessions on a ‘high’.They are a delightful group to work with and I feel privileged to be able to bring some pleasure into their lives. I have also rediscovered poetry for myself.”

The Reader Organisation is currently seeking volunteers of all abilities with excellent communication skills to volunteer in Barnet. Do you believe in the value of reading? Can you be flexible, open to new ways of thinking and approaching literature and show care for others?

You can find out more about this opportunity, training starting this October, by downloading this flier, seeing our website, or for further information, contact Paul Higgins on paulhiggins@thereader.org.uk or 07985 718744.