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.

Get Into Reading grows in Liverpool

Great news for growing the Reading Revolution at our base in Liverpool The Reader Organisation has recently received two successful bids for our work in the area, which will enable us to keep connecting people through great literature and reach even more people across the city.

Bev reads with her groupThe Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital Trust have commissioned The Reader Organisation for a three year project running shared reading groups in chronic pain settings across the trust. We already a deliver a group for people living with chronic pain at Broadgreen Hospital, started as part of a research project by the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS) investigating the effects shared reading may have upon the condition. Though the research period has come to an end (with the report expected soon), the members’ benefits have ensured that the group is continuing. The impact of the chronic pain group was highlighted at this year’s Reader Organisation National Conference:

“I used to be crying at night sometimes …but now it’s given me a lift, I feel better and I can use the time better… to read instead.” – member of chronic pain group, Broadgreen Hospital

This new commission from The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital Trust enables more shared reading groups to be set up in the area of chronic pain, as well as potentially expanding into dialysis wards and other areas of physical health.

We have also received funding from Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to continue our delivery of Get Into Reading across Liverpool until March 2014. This means that we can continue to build upon the 70+ groups currently running in a variety of settings across Liverpool, giving more people of all ages and backgrounds the chance to encounter the social, often powerful experience of shared reading:

“This group has been a lifeline for me. I escape everyday pressures for a few hours every week and I’d be lost without it.” – Peter, Get Into Reading member at Toxteth Library
Find out more about our shared reading projects in Liverpool and the North West by visiting the Where We Work section of our website.

Make Friends with a Book in North Wales

waleslogoIn October last year, The Reader Organisation received over £236,000 from Big Lottery Wales to take shared reading into the fourth corner of the UK. Our specially recruited North Wales team have been hard at work preparing and now we’re excited to say that the Reading Revolution is coming to life in North Wales.

Over the next three years, we’re developing a shared reading project across the region, establishing over 30 groups in a variety of settings throughout the community for people of all ages and in both English and Welsh. The Make Friends with a Book project begins in September with the first shared reading groups running weekly in libraries in Holywell, Llanberis, Llanrwst and Penrhyn. In the coming months there will be more groups set up across North Wales, so if you’re in the area keep your eyes peeled…

Cup of tea and a storyHowever, if you’re aged 11-13 and live in Bangor you don’t have to wait to start sharing reading as there’s a group running just for you each Monday afternoon, 4.45-6pm in Bangor Library. Round off your summer with some great stories – and once school is in again, the group keeps going so there’s no need to miss out.

The new Make Friends with a Book groups in North Wales are as follows:

  • Holywell Library, Flintshire – Mondays, 12-1.15pm from 2nd September 2013
  • Llanberis Library, Llanberis  – Mondays, 3-4.30pm (after school group for children aged 7-11) from 16th September 2013 (NB: This group will be through the medium of Welsh)
  • Llanrwst Library, Gwynedd – Mondays, 3.30-5pm from 16th September 2013
  • Penrhyn Bay Library, Penrhyn Bay – Thursdays, 10-11.30am from 19th September 2013
  • Rhyl Library, Rhyl – Thursdays, 1.30-3pm from 17th October 2013
  • Bangor Library – Mondays, 4.45-6pm (for children aged 11-13)

Our North Wales team will also be at this year’s Gladfest at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, running shared reading taster sessions for 6-10 year olds on Saturday 7th September at 11.30am and 1.30pm.

You can find out more about our project in North Wales on our website, and head to our Reading With Us group map for updates on community groups in the area.

Social Business Trust invests in The Reader Organisation

social business trust logoGreat news for the Reading Revolution – the Social Business Trust is investing £280,000 in The Reader Organisation, helping us to reach even more people through shared reading and combat social isolation through great literature.

The Social Business Trust (SBT) was formed in 2010, offering expertise and advice to social enterprises who want to grow and scale up their operations, alongside financial investment. Looking at a social enterprise, SBT assess the obstacles facing the organisation and establish the best possible support from their partners, managing investment and links between enterprises and supporters.

SBT’s investment in The Reader Organisation is its eighth investment in a social enterprise  – others have included The Challenge Network, the London Early Years Foundation and the Shakespeare Schools Festival – and will be made up of a £100,000 cash grant and £180,000 worth of professional support from SBT’s corporate partners. The professional support package, led by British Gas with support from SBT’s other corporate partners, will underpin our growth and business development, defining development strategy and recruiting new positions.

Adele Blakebrough, Chief Executive of Social Business Trust, said of the investment:

“The Reader Organisation is an incredibly inspiring social enterprise. Many people start off sceptical about how useful it can be to encourage people to read in groups, but when you see it in action the impact is transformational and uplifting. We are so pleased to be able to help them grow and reach more and more people with their wonderful work.”

Book close-upSBT’s investment will be vital in ensuring that Get Into Reading goes from strength to strength, reaching more of the people who most need the benefits that come from sharing great literature with good company. Currently, over 350 groups reach hundreds of people each week, bringing positive impacts such as self-esteem, boosted confidence and reduced social isolation. With the investment we can go some way towards achieving the ambition of delivering 1,920 weekly reading groups within five years and engage over 17,000 individuals, bringing closer our vision of providing access to shared reading groups to everybody in the UK.

Founder and Director of The Reader Organisation Jane Davis said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to be backed by SBT in this way. The process to date has been an extremely valuable one, and we are looking forward to learning new ways of thinking and working through the support provided. The Reader Organisation has grown at a rate of about 30% since we were founded in 2008, but this is going to be different! It’s really exciting to be at the beginning of a period of unprecedented yet strongly supported growth which will help us spread the reading revolution across the UK.”

SBT’s partners are: Bain & Company, British Gas, Clifford Chance, Credit-Suisse, Ernst & Young, Permira and Thomson Reuters. For more information about SBT, visit the Social Business Trust website.

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.

Reading for Wellbeing at London Creativity and Wellbeing Week

Health and WellbeingReading for Wellbeing
Thursday 20th June, 12.30-4pm
Southbank Centre, Poetry Library, Level 5, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX

As part of London Creativity and Wellbeing Week, The Reader Organisation is holding a special Reading for Wellbeing event at the Southbank Centre this Thursday, 20th June.

London Creativity and Wellbeing Week ran for the first time last year, putting the spotlight on the many ways in which the arts improve the health and wellbeing of people living in London. This year even more events will be running across the capital during the week – 17th-22nd June – highlighting how creativity and participating in the arts can boost wellbeing.

Reading for Wellbeing will give the chance to come and experience our unique shared reading model at the Southbank Centre. At the event you’ll be able hear from our team about how our work is contributing to health and wellbeing in community settings, health centres, mental health hospitals and prisons, amongst other settings, and do lots of shared reading to experience firsthand the benefits it can provide.

Limited spaces on this event are available and can be booked via Get Into Reading London Project Manager Penny Markell: pennymarkell@thereader.org.uk or call 07967 929454.

More information can be found on the London Creativity and Wellbeing Week website.