The Big Give Christmas Challenge: How your donations will help

The-Big-Give-Christmas-Challenge-2013The Reader Organisation is part of The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2013. From today, 5th December to Saturday 7th September, if you donate to TRO through our profile on The Big Give website there’s the chance that the donation will be doubled by match funding from The Garfield Weston Foundation. Donate online by clicking the ‘Donate Online Now’ button as close as possible to 10am today, Friday and Saturday to increase the chance of your donation being doubled, helping us to reach more people through shared reading.

The money we hope to raise via The Big Give Christmas Challenge will be used to appoint a new Project Worker who will share reading with some of the most vulnerable people in society. On a weekly basis we reach groups who are in need of the comfort, companionship and much more that great literature provides, including people at risk of or experiencing social isolation, looked-after children in foster care and those living with dementia.

Our evaluation statistics show the difference shared reading is making to these groups:

  • 86% of readers in dementia care home settings were reported to be less agitated and had improved mood following shared reading sessions
  • 100% of the looked-after children we read with one-to-one told us they enjoyed reading books they wouldn’t have chosen themselves, and that they enjoyed discussing their ideas and opinions

dementia£20,000 will allow us to employ a Project Worker who will work with 200 vulnerable people, extending the positive effects of shared reading and making a huge difference to many lives.

Here is just one example of the people we read with on a daily basis – your donations could help us to bring more of these stories to life:

Matthew has early on-set dementia and is much younger than most of the other patients on the ward. He rarely interacts with the other people and appears quite isolated and depressed, talking only in monosyllables and taking a long time to respond to questions. His speech seems slow and impaired: he struggles not only to find words to be able to express himself but also to find the will or desire to make such acts of communication in the first place.

I noticed during a session that centred upon an extract about summer-time from Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie that Matthew seemed to be looking about him more than usual and to be listening attentively to what was being discussed by the other group- members. I asked him what he’d like to eat during a hot day in summer. He replied in a single word – ‘Fruit’. I asked him what kind of fruit. He said ‘Apples, oranges.’ This response was quite a breakthrough for Matthew.

On that basis I risked asking him if he’d like to re-read a poem I’d just read to the group.At the end of his reading I thanked Matthew for reading and remarked that he had a wonderful reading voice. He smiled and said, ‘Thank you for saying so.’ The group moved on to talk a bit about the poem, but at the end of the session I came back to Matthew and asked him if he had enjoyed the session. Once again he took several moments to respond and then answer, reverting somewhat to his slower voice but this time managing to articulate himself in full. He said, ‘Yeah. It was elevating.’”

Another one of our readers said: “You have given me my youth back”

Any size donation you can give would be hugely appreciated to help us continue making these moments happen. As there are limited funds available as part of The Big Give Challenge, be sure to donate as near as possible to 10am for the chance of your donation being doubled by match funding. Click the ‘Donate Online Now’ button on our Big Give profile or click here go directly to the donation form.

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.

Betty’s Reader Story

dementia 2Earlier this week on The Reader Online we gave a summary of the ‘Living Well with Dementia’ session at Shared Reading for Healthy Communities, this year’s National Conference of The Reader Organisation. The session presented some thought-provoking examples of how shared reading can impact upon people living with dementia, leading on the positive findings from CRILS‘ research publication, A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia.

Each week, our Project Workers and many of our volunteers are sharing reading with older people and those living with dementia, providing time and space to relax, interact with others and engage in meaningful, stimulating activity. Not only do residents get to connect with great literature but their mood and concentration improves, with personal memories and stories beginning to emerge.

Here’s one of our Reader Stories from Betty, a resident in a care home – just one example of how taking part in shared reading can prove to be ‘a window on the world’ and much more for people living with dementia.

Betty is a regular at the Care Home 1 group. She is 93 years old. Since before Christmas, Betty’s health seems to have deteriorated, but she is still keen to come to the group and share poetry. One week when she was not in the group I was told she was in the quiet lounge and didn’t want to move. When I went to say hello however, she was most put out and said ‘I would have come, I love the poetry.’  So we read a couple of poems together, just the two of us.

Betty particularly likes poems about the sea. As a child she lived in Flint in Wales, but always visited Talacra on the coast and has clear memories of it. Eventually her father built a bungalow at Talacra and she recalls many holidays, including a sad one when some young men were drowned. Betty also has a strong memory of being cut off by the tide and being ‘guided’ back to shore by a dog. She never knew what became of the dog.

dementia 4Another great favourite of Betty’s is ‘Pedlars’ by W D Rands. She remembers it as one of the first poems she learned as a child. She and the other members of the group had a really good conversation about seeing gypsies travelling in traditional wooden caravans and remembering the tinkling sound they made as everything inside moved around.

Betty had a happy marriage, but does not seem to have had children of her own, although she fostered them. She also loved to garden and seems knowledgeable when we read poems about nature or gardens. Betty has plainly always loved to read. She says her mother loved poetry and she thinks that’s where her love of it originates. She recalls a mobile library (a horse and cart) coming to her childhood home in Flint. Her mother would keep the more ‘grown up’ books on a high shelf, but as they got older, Betty and her siblings were allowed to reach for these.

Find more of our Readers’ Stories on our website, where you can also discover more about shared reading with older people and people living with dementia.