An exciting modern twist on Jane Austen’s letters, theatre company LipService bring the author into the digital world with a touring show coming to a North West library near you!
‘Well I just love coming. It’s something to look forward to. It makes you think…when I’m here I don’t think of anything else.’ – shared reading group member in Melton Mowbray Library, Leicestershire
Each week our Shared Reading groups are taking place in libraries across the UK, connecting people of all ages and backgrounds with literature and one another. From groups improving health and wellbeing in West London to groups that help stimulate memories and reconnect older people with those closest to them in Wiltshire and the South West, shared reading in library settings is creating a variety of positive impacts for individuals and within local communities.
Researching Reading Groups
Are you a facilitator or a member of a Shared Reading group? A small collective of experienced researchers with backgrounds in education and lifelong learning are currently exploring the part that libraries play in supporting reading groups, including shared reading groups, in the community and in promoting reading for pleasure. Their research will document what is currently happening and highlight best practice in this important area of libraries’ work.
To help, they want to find out more about why people join Shared Reading groups and why they keep coming. If you have a story about your experience of Shared Reading in libraries, please do get in touch.
For more information, please contact Lesley Dee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some examples of what’s happening around the country
During shared reading sessions, people may identify with the experiences revealed by characters in literature and find a way of linking it to their own lives – perhaps subconsciously. Over time, and with the help of the support of others in the group and the texts that are read, they may feel confident enough to find their voice on difficult subjects and discover different perspectives within themselves. A is one of our regular group members at Seacombe Library, Wirral:
“A, who attends the group each week, is a keen reader and it’s always a pleasure to share a story with him. Recently we read an extract from Dickens’s Great Expectations that introduces the reader to Miss Havisham and her self-imposed seclusion at Satis House. I asked A what he made of Miss Havisham and why he thought she lived her life in that way. ‘She could be scared’, was his response. I agreed with him and asked why he thought that was the case. ‘Because she’s stuck in the past; she still wears the same clothes and doesn’t want to move on’.
I asked A to imagine he were Pip and standing before Miss Havisham. ‘What advice would you give her?’ I asked. ‘To move forward slowly’. I thought this was a really insightful comment, and perhaps one that mirrors A’s own experience. We ended the group with A asking if he could keep his copy of the extract so he could read it again in his own time. It was with this request that I realised how much the group had meant to him.”
It’s not only our readers who are benefitting from sharing stories in their local library, but also volunteers – over in Leicestershire, our project with Leicestershire Libraries is almost entirely run by volunteers, creating hundreds of reading experiences and lasting friendships across the county, including the weekly group in Oadby Library:
“What was the best thing for me was seeing, possibly for the first time, the real benefit of shared reading. B said she just listened with her eyes closed to me reading which she found very helpful. By the end of the session her colour had literally returned and she forgot herself and, helped by D’s personality and the literature, became animated and laughed. Equally S and D had apparently been reading poems to each other the previous day and D has joined a poetry appreciation group, inspired by reading poetry in our group.”
This week has seen an amazing milestone in the story of shared reading (so far), with one of our longest running group members celebrating a special anniversary.
Carol Munns was part of the very first shared reading group – a six-week pilot project at St James’ Library in Birkenhead, from which our hundreds of groups now operating across the UK on a weekly basis originated. After an initially reluctant start, Carol discovered a love of reading through the group, went onto obtain a GCSE in English and applied for a job at Bebington Central Library. Six months on from starting in the library, she decided to set up her own shared reading group for the community. In September 2007, the group at Bebington Central Library had its first session – and eight years on, it’s still going strong!
Each week, Carol reads with her regular members – there’s an average of 12-14 who come, and the group is proving so popular at the moment that there’s a waiting list of attendees. Most of the Bebington readers are older, living in sheltered accommodation or otherwise isolated from many social activities. Others have commitments of caring for their relatives and loved ones and don’t get much of a chance to have some time that is just their own, purely to unwind. In Carol’s words, “people come to switch off and relax with the love of a book”, and it is through this that lasting bonds and friendships have been formed. The accessible setting of the library – close by for group members – coupled with the opportunity to connect with others within the community makes the group something ‘unique’.
“The reading group saved me when my husband was sick”
“Everyone [in the group] has been kind to me when I lost my confidence” – shared reading group members, Bebington Central Library
There have been many highlights over the eight years the group has been running – a number of theatre trips have been embarked upon, showing how the group’s passion for literature goes beyond, and also participated in our Wirral Community Shakespeare project in 2008. Asking Carol about her own stand-out moments from the group’s history, she was quick to mention Mary, one of Bebington’s longest serving group members. Mary had led a full life, travelling across the world before returning to Wirral in her later years. Loneliness became an increasing problem for her before she began attending the group. Mary has since passed away, but Carol recalls how even with all the adventures she had experienced she called going to the group “the highlight of her life”.
The group celebrated their special anniversary by reading The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam as well as enjoying a spot of lunch and will soon be heading on an outing to the local cinema to watch a live theatre broadcast of The Importance of Being Earnest – another book they have read and enjoyed.
All of us at The Reader offer our biggest congratulations to Carol and the Bebington group – and here’s to many more years of shared reading together!
Award winning author, screenwriter and patron of The Reader Organisation Frank Cottrell Boyce will be returning to Merseyside for a special FREE event at Leasowe Library this coming Saturday, 9th November. Fresh from his latest success winning the German Children’s Literature Award for The Unforgotten Coat – the book he wrote especially for TRO – Frank will be reading from some of his books, answering questions and signing copies at the library on Saturday afternoon.
The event has been organised by Leasowe Reading and Wellbeing Library, a collaboration between Wirral Council and The Reader Organisation promoting public engagement, improving users’ health and wellbeing, and reducing social isolation. The library has recently heralded the arrival of a range of new books for children and young people, purchased through a £1,500 grant from the Siobhan Dowd Trust.
As well as getting the opportunity to hear Frank read some of his imagination-captivating stories in person, there will also be a free raffle for all children at the event with some wonderful prizes on offer.
Cllr Chris Meaden, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing at Wirral Borough Council said:
“I can’t stress enough how pleased I am to be able to welcome Frank to appear at Leasowe Library. As well as being one of the country’s most successful and recognised writers, his opening ceremony for the London Olympics was an iconic production that will live long in people’s memory.”
Don’t miss out on this brilliant afternoon with one of the country’s most successful writers celebrating the books and activities going on at Leasowe Library for children and young people each week.
The event is free but advance booking is essential. For more information about the afternoon or to book your place, please contact Victoria Clarke, Reading and Wellbeing Library Development Officer, on email@example.com or call 07857 355 732 or 07807 106 857.
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…
£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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Let me confess. I love libraries. I love almost everything about them, from the faint smell of dust to the sound of distant voices, the gentle clatter of book trolleys and the click-thump of the date stamp. Back when university libraries were quiet, empty places where you could do serious work, I did serious work in them, including a PhD thesis and some of the first things I ever published. I even wrote two high-speed, strictly-for-the-money, no names no pack drill history books in a university library, scribbling away for weeks like a student with all the deadlines for an entire degree course coming down at once. It was great fun.
But one thing about libraries annoys me: having to take the books back before a certain date. It’s not so bad if you have one library card and you visit regularly. But if you have three or four library cards, plus a couple belonging to your kids, it can be difficult to keep track. Even more so if the loan periods are all different and the numbers of books large. My staff library card at the university library, for example, allows me to take out more books than I can lift for an entire year. And while my local library cards only give me five for a fortnight, I have two cards. My daughter’s card allows her to take out books for a fortnight and DVDs for a week. You see where I’m going with this. We pay fines.
Let it not be said however that I am a person who sits back and puts up with something when a complex technological solution is only a few clicks away. Many libraries these days allow you to manage your borrowing online, much like a bank. But what would really help would be a way of getting the due dates from the library website to my calendar. Enter a clever piece of Mac only software called Library Books, which can be downloaded from here. The developer asks for donations if you like using the software.
Library Books places a little star in the taskbar and a number to indicate the books you have on loan. Click on the star and you get details of all your borrowings from multiple libraries. You can add the information to the Mac’s calendar, iCal, with a single click, to receive reminders in good time about when your books should be going back. Setting up the system is easy. Several UK library systems, and many others from other countries are listed as presets and you can also set up unlisted libraries using the “generic” library types. University of Liverpool is an INNOPAC system, for example which is listed. You enter your user name and password, and Library Books connects to your library account. You can even list several library accounts at once, which is very useful. If your specific library isn’t listed the developer will add it as a preset if you ask nicely.
I’m going to see how I get on using it. Here’s the link to Library Books again (Mac users only).
Posted by Chris Routledge