Giving the gift of reading

Giving Tuesday 2015 Twitter 2It’s Giving Tuesday today – a global day celebrating all the reasons why it’s good to give, whether it be donating time, money or your voice in support of helping others. The Reader is proud to be a partner of Giving Tuesday in the UK for the second year running alongside thousands of others around the country.

Our shared reading groups take place weekly, helping people connect not only to the literature that is being read – full of language, thoughts and feelings about what it is to be human – but to a better understanding of themselves and others. In many cases the people we reach through shared reading are isolated or frustrated with their life situation, and an hour and a half’s worth of reading each week can become a priceless gift.

One of our project workers Lauren tells the story of one ‘magic’ act of giving:

Last spring I was volunteering with The Reader, reading 1:1 for an hour every week with an elderly gentleman. He lives alone, an 80 year old man with no family and few friends still living. He is utterly dependent on those of us who come each week to create a support system for him, his makeshift family. Not a comfortable position for a man who has lived an active independent life, part of a generation that survived a world war and is unsure what to make of our 21st century with its predisposition for ‘thoughts and feelings’.

In our first shared reading session together, we’re both nervous and awkward – me perhaps more so, as I am aware that the elderly gentleman is blind and focused on my voice so I MUST speak in a firm voice that does not betray my nerves, nor grate with its nasal North American ‘mispronunciations’.

I begin our story and can feel he isn’t sure what to make of all this, most likely wondering what he’s let himself in for. He is a ‘nonfiction’ reader.

Nonetheless he is polite to me. We break often to discuss our story. I begin to understand that this man I am reading with has not been blind for very long and has many, many unresolved emotions he is dealing with.

The magic happens when I read our poem, Until You Too Have Journeyed by Kei Miller. A moving poem certainly, but one which takes on so many more complex layers when read to someone who has recently lost his sight.

Until you too have journeyed through caves,
through miles of damp and bats, the cool
of all that is not living; until your one torch
has flickered out and you have found yourself
in a dark so dark you forget your eyes
or if they are opened;

from Until You Too Have Journeyed, Kei Miller

My gentleman hangs on every word. I finish and am silent, trying to collect myself, unsure whether I have pushed too far, too fast. He asks me to re-read a particular line, ‘until you have had to find a way, inch by careful inch, stopping to invent an arrow out of wind’. “This is someone who has lived his story”, my gentleman says and we go on, together, from there.

Despite each session only being scheduled for an hour each week, Lauren would stay and read for three hours at the gentleman’s home. When their volunteering sessions came to an end, the gentleman recalled If by Rudyard Kipling, reciting it as a gift to Lauren.

The gift of reading is one that be can shared with no need for money to be spent – just time, care and dedication is needed. Our volunteering projects around the country allow people to get involved with shared reading for as little as an hour a week, bringing the benefits of literature to those who really need it.

We currently have opportunities to volunteer with us in Liverpool and Merseyside, London – including a new Reading Friends programme reading one-on-one to older people at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals – and South West England, in Wiltshire and Somerset.

For more information about Giving Tuesday, see the website:
If you want to give the gift of reading to someone close this Giving Tuesday, why not delve into our Featured Poem archive and pick a poem to share?

Giving Tuesday

MFS_9477“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”- Charles Dickens

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:

Calderstones Mansion House c Dave JonesYou 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:

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:

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,
Untold intent:
But it is a god,
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.

(Read the full poem here)

You can find out more about #GivingTuesday on the website: