It was William Blake in his Poetical Works who said “Great things are done when Men and Mountains meet/This is not Done by jostling in the Street”. A great thing was certainly done on Sunday 20th September when the highest shared reading group in Wales – and England – took place at the summit of Mount Snowdon.
We’re always game for a challenge at The Reader, as well as constantly seeking to take shared reading to new places never before ventured. Earlier this year our North Wales team began to plan for the intrepid adventure, taking into account important things such as logistics, weather and the various safety concerns that come with reading upon the 1,085m peak of the highest point in the British Isles outside of the Scottish Highlands. The shared reading group members, volunteers and Reader staff were gathered and briefed and finally, a date in September was settled upon. Early Autumn would surely provide dry and fairly sunny conditions to enjoy the group reading as well as the breathtaking views…
Unfortunately the British weather couldn’t be as well organised as the rest of the trip, and our band of brave Readers were met with wet, windy and foggy conditions at the top of the mountain. Luckily they were able to remain dry for the majority of the journey, boarding the Snowdon Mountain Railway and warming up with a selection of poems before making it triumphant – if a little weather-worn – to the summit.
For such a momentous occasion, the choice of poem to read aloud became all the more significant. There are plenty of Welsh literary greats who would have proved fitting, but we had to plump for a poem written about the most difficult route to the summit of Mount Snowdon. Even if our team of mountaineers didn’t tread the path of Crib Goch, the readings of Y Grib Goch in Welsh by T. Rowland Hughes and the English translation Crib Goch by Catherine Fisher captured the spirit, history and atmosphere atop the peak, as well as signifying the true versatility of shared reading – there really is a suitable poem for every occasion! On the way back down the mountain, there was more group shared reading in store to celebrate a successful attempt with euphoria and a sense of achievement running high.
The journey, as well as the stirring bilingual readings, were captured on camera for those of us with our feet firmly on ground level terrain to enjoy:
A mountain-sized thanks goes to our North Wales Project Coordinator Jeanette who had the tricky task of organising the expedition against all the adversities, making sure the day was both safe and successful for everyone involved. The group has been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest shared reading group to have ever taken place, so we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that we can be recognised as a record breaker.
Jeanette also made the airwaves before leading our band of Readers up into the air, speaking to Wynne Jones on his Big Welsh Weekend show on BBC Radio Wales about the expedition. Listen from 47 minutes 30 seconds in: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06b3jxl (27 days left to listen)
There’s been a lot going on at Calderstones Mansion in the last few months – with lots of help from the hardworking and generous team at Prinovis, we’ve been able to open our first refurbished Reading Room to enable our group members to enjoy weekly sessions even more, and the summer has seen a number of outdoor productions stop off at the Garden Theatre, including shows from Illyria, MATE Productions and three sell-out performances of Romeo and Juliet from The Globe On Tour, with not even a spot or two of rain enough to dampen proceedings.
We are creating an International Centre for Reading at Calderstones, so it’s fitting that we could welcome a special visitor from the other side of the world earlier this month. Shirley Bateman, Reader Development Team Leader from Melbourne Library Service came to The Reader HQ as part of her tour of literary projects around the UK and Ireland. As well as hearing all about the City of Readers campaign, Jane took Shirley on a tour of Calderstones, including the amazing Prinovis Reading Room. You can read more about the visit on Shirley’s blog: https://shirleybateman.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/more-famous-than-the-beatles/
More exciting news is just around the corner…development of the Storybarn, the North West’s first interactive story centre for children and families, is taking shape outside HQ as we type, and we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors from far and wide when it opens this Autumn. The Storybarn has been made possible thanks to funding from the Social Investment Business and their Liverpool City Region Impact Fund – our Head of Facilities Craig spoke to SIB about the plans for the Storybarn and how it will encourage imagination and a love of reading in future generations:
Every year, almost 148,000 children leave primary school in England unable to read well – including one third of all children growing up in poverty according to a report released by Save the Children as part of their Read On Get On Campaign.
Ready to Read calls on national government for ‘a decisive shift towards early action and investment to help address one of the country’s most pressing challenges – entrenched educational underachievement’.
However the report’s findings demonstrate that the root of this issue stems from a child’s pre-school years:
A child with weak language skills at the age of five is much less likely to be a strong reader at the age of 11
In England, almost one child in four (23%) does not meet the expected level of language development by the age of five
Children living in poverty face a much greater risk of falling behind – one in three (35%) does not have the language skills expected of a five-year-old
[Ready to Read, 2015]
Due to the impact of Early Years speech and language development on life chances, the report states that in order to fulfil the primary aim of the Read On Get On campaign – that every child in England can read well by the age of 11 by 2025 – an interim goal is needed: that every five-year-old in England should have good language skills by 2020.
However in the midst of calls for national focus and investment in Early Years, Save the Children recognises that this challenge is not Westminster’s alone. It also requires the coordination of local services, organisations and families to address reading standards – an area in which Liverpool is already leading the way through its city-wide campaign City of Readers, joint-funded by Liverpool City Council and Liverpool Learning Partnership, and delivered by The Reader Organisation.
The success of previous projects The Reader Organisation has delivered with children and young people in schools and other educational settings, including a three year transition project reading with deprived school pupils in Glasgow, have left us well-placed to replicate our efforts in Early Years Development. The graph below shows the improvement in reading and language skills of the children in one of our shared reading groups within the space of six months, when beforehand the same children had little interest in reading for pleasure:
Taking the initiative in 2012 to lay the foundations for future prosperity and skills growth, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson instigated a 12-month commission into the city’s education system, led by former education secretary Estelle Morris. The Mayor saw a link between improving reading standards for children and reducing the number of NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training). The commissioned report From Better to Best was published in July 2013 and the City of Readers campaign was formed in order to develop a new generation of readers in Liverpool.
Since then, the Liverpool Learning Partnership initiative City of Readers has been promoting opportunities for families to help their children’s language and speech development, through projects including the PVI programme commissioned by Liverpool City Council’s Childcare and Family Information Service (CAFIS).
In the PVI programme, The Reader Organisation works with nurseries from the Private, Voluntary and Independent sector to deliver shared reading groups across Liverpool, for two-year olds and their parents and carers.This access to free early education also represents opportunities for family bonding and fostering reading pleasure.
Jan Gallagher, Principal Officer at CAFIS, spoke of how the PVI project has been received so far:
“Although still in the early stages of the programme, early indications are very positive, and feedback from nursery staff and parents is suggesting the benefits for the future, and the enjoyment of those families involved.”
In another initiative to encourage families to read together, City of Readers recently hosted a free event with the Sunday Times Children’s Book Editor Nicolette Jones and award-winning writer Frank Cottrell Boyce at The Reader Organisation’s headquarters in Calderstones Park. This event, ‘Turning Pages Together: a celebration of children’s literature’ saw both author and critic highlight their rich experience of the best in children’s literature to the community, just one of many events that the City of Readers campaign will be offering across the city to make reading for pleasure more accessible and achievable.
Nicolette Jones praised the foresight of Liverpool City Council in its efforts through City of Readers to raise the profile of reading in the city as a whole – celebrating the enjoyment of reading in all our communities:
“I am delighted that Liverpool City Council has been so enlightened as to encourage the exemplary Reader Organisation, which has found effective ways of making children and adults love books, and has allowed them to make Calderstones Mansion the hub of this joyous activity, as well as enabling their outreach into nurseries, homes, schools and other institutions.
The world is going to be a better place, starting in Liverpool.”
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson reinforces that a wider culture of reading needs to be embraced in order to increase children’s literacy development:
“I want to thank everyone who’s been engaged in the City of Readers programmes, but I also want families to be engaged… I want your grandparents, uncles, aunties, mums and dads… to help work with our young kids to make sure that they’re able to read and if we do that I’m sure our city will have a better future in terms of educational standards”.
City of Readers recently produced a short video highlighting their work with early years’ children and parents, giving an opportunity to hear directly from those involved with their PVI programme and the benefits they have experienced. You can watch the video here or by taking a look below (with special thanks to Insight Moving Images):
On August 10th City of Readers will be supporting the Read On Get On national Storytime Starters event with Beanstalk. The city-wide celebration of reading will see storytellers from both organisations offering free storytime sessions across several parks and green spaces in the city.
Find out more information about this event and where your nearest story time session will be as well as more on the City of Readers campaign at: www.cityofreaders.org
Reading is becoming big news in Liverpool as there are some exciting plans afoot to ensure that generations can engage with literature for years to come.
Our friends at City of Readers have been hard at work over the past few months gathering support from individuals and organisations across the city for their Give Us 5 campaign. Frank Cottrell Boyce, Liverpool Echo and Baltic Creative have been amongst those who have lent their support to turn Liverpool into the UK’s foremost reading city over the past year, and thanks to a very special campaign video even more people are on board. The brilliant Jack-All Productions have been busy putting together the video, featuring the Royal Liverpool Hospital, National Museums Liverpool, Whitefield Primary School, BBC Radio Merseyside and local poet Levi Tafari, who are all encouraging everyone around Liverpool to give 5 for reading. The video was launched at Blackburne House in Liverpool last week, along with a special CPD event with The Reader Organisation’s founder Jane Davis and Frank Cottrell Boyce giving a rundown of their favourite books to read for pleasure with children.
Take a look at the video below, and find out more about how you can get involved with giving 5 for reading on the City of Readers website: http://cityofreaders.org/
There was also some wonderful news for our continued redevelopment at Calderstones Mansion as we received funding from the Social Investment Business for The Story Barn at Calderstones. The Grade 2 listed Barn and Stable area of the Mansion will be transformed to become an interactive Story Barn, bringing literature to life and encouraging reading for pleasure amongst young people and the wider community within the heart of Calderstones. Exhibitions from children’s authors and illustrators will feature alongside a permanent interactive space which will allow children and families to explore, play and interact with literary adventures as well as the nature of the park surrounding. With our weekly shared reading groups for children already successful, the Story Barn will be an important cornerstone in continuing to create a love of reading in future generations and the creation of making Calderstones Mansion House an International Centre of Reading.
Nellibobs – a.k.a. Brian Nellist – is a busy man. When he’s not co-editing The Reader magazine, musing over the latest edition of Gardeners’ World, walking his beagle Argy or just making his way through a wealth of reading material, he can be found on YouTube with his special Friday Night Nellibobs videos, where he can be found pondering some of the greatest pieces of literature known to man (and indeed, woman).
Far Places (Part 1) begins on Monday 29th September and runs every Monday from 10.30am-12.30pm at The Lauries Community Centre. The first part will focus especially on Homer’s Odyssey. Part 2 will be taking place in January 2015, discovering yet more great literature from authors including Shakespeare, Johnson, Graham Greene and Doris Lessing. Places on the course cost £65/£35 concessions (retired/student/unemployed/shared reading group member) – there’s a special 10% discount available if you sign up for both September and January courses at the same time.
At Better with a Book, The Reader Organisation’s National Conference, we’ll be exploring how the shared reading model pioneered by The Reader Organisation uses literature to improve mental health, stimulate emotional development, reduce social isolation and enhance quality of life. Throughout the day on Thursday 15th May in London, the practice of shared reading and its impact upon individuals, communities and organisations will be discussed in a range of illuminating sessions.
The shared reading movement is not only booming across the UK but has also travelled abroad thanks to our revolutionary training programme Read to Lead. We’ve made several visits over to Belgium to create shared reading practitioners who are furthering the Reading Revolution, and last month saw the launch of Het Lezercollectief (The Readers Collective), a cooperative network of readers inspired by the work of The Reader Organisation.
Founder and Director of The Reader Organisation Jane Davis sent her good wishes across to Belgium, and in a specially made video Jane talks about why she feels that sharing reading and bringing literature out into the community is so vital. From her own experience of being powerfully moved and affected by literature to the extraordinary impact it is having on the lives of others – including people in isolation cells in Broadmoor Hospital – shared reading has come a long way since The Reader Organisation’s beginnings. And why does reading need to be shared aloud instead of in our heads to have such a significant effect? This question and more are answered by watching on…
Discover more about shared reading and how it works within health, education, criminal justice and community settings with Jane and guest speakers including Lord Melvyn Bragg and Baroness Estelle Morris, as well as some of our Readers and commissioners, at Better with a Book at The British Library Conference Centre in London on Thursday 15th May.
Full day delegate places (including VAT, lunch and refreshments) cost £140, and are available to book via our website, by cheque or invoice.
Today is the day when people across the world unite to celebrate World Read Aloud Day, an occasion to celebrate the power and pleasure that reading aloud can provide. The Reader Organisation is a WRADvocate Partner of World Read Aloud Day 2014, and along with the other partners and founder of WRAD LitWorld, we’re encouraging everyone to read aloud to help change the world.
“Reading aloud is better than in your head. It’s like you’re on an adventure, you can understand more aloud.”
We’re celebrating reading aloud all year round, in our shared reading groups and as part of City of Readers, an initiative by Liverpool Learning Partnership to get people of all ages all across Liverpool reading for pleasure. We’ve been counting down some of our favourite read aloud videos from the City of Readers YouTube channel to get us into the read aloud spirit, and today we have a special treat of one of our favourite stories to share, from our recent Half Term Hijinks at Calderstones Mansion House:
Perhaps The Gruffalo is one of the stories you’ll read aloud for World Read Aloud Day? If you’re struggling to make a choice, then there are lots of gems in our anthologies, A Little, Aloud and A Little, Aloud for Children. All the stories and poems included have been specially selected for their read-aloud qualities, and are accompanied by reading times for each piece and suggestions of further reading. From Roald Dahl to Dickens, Jane Eyre to The Jumblies, there’s something for everyone to enjoy reading aloud. You can purchase your copy of both anthologies on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/anthologies.aspx
Whatever you’re reading today, make sure you do so aloud! You can follow the hashtag #WRAD to get involved in all the World Read Aloud Day celebrations.
There’s less than two weeks to go until World Read Aloud Day, the worldwide celebration of reading aloud headed by LitWorld. The Reader Organisation is proud to be taking part as a WRADvocate Partner of World Read Aloud Day 2014, and we’re counting down to the big day by showcasing a selection of people who love to read aloud.
You can be a part of our World Read Aloud Day celebrations by filming yourself reading something you love aloud and sending it to us to show the world your passion for reading. It’s easy to do – just make a recording (between 2 and 25 minutes long), save it as a .wav file, include your details and a photo of yourself and send it to us by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll add you to our online reading hall of fame as we help Liverpool Learning Partnership create a City of Readers.
From today until World Read Aloud Day, we’re getting into the read aloud spirit by sharing some of the brilliant read aloud videos we’ve already gathered online. The first we’re sharing here on The Reader Online, but for the rest you’ll need to check our Twitter page to get the full reading aloud countdown.
One of our favourite days is fast approaching – World Read Aloud Day 2014 is happening on Wednesday 5th March, rallying the whole world to come together and share the joy of reading aloud to show that everyone has the right to read, sharing their voices and stories to change the world. The Reader Organisation is delighted to be linking up with LitWorld as a WRADvocate Partner for World Read Aloud Day 2014, celebrating the pleasure and power of reading aloud on a global scale.
At the heart of all of our shared reading groups and activities happening each week, for young people and adults alike, is a focus on reading for pleasure and meaning in a relaxed, informal and friendly environment. Reading aloud is a key element of all of our shared reading groups: not only is an experience created by bringing a story or poem alive in the room, but being able to read and listen to the literature allows us to relate on a deeper level, drawing human and emotional connections with the text and one another. Reading aloud is relaxing, empowering, socially connective and opens us up to other worlds.
“It’s even better than reading yourself – you’d miss things by yourself – but the big thing here is that when you read with a little group in a cosy atmosphere you pay more attention to the details, especially in poems. It’s great that we’re all individuals with different viewpoints on subjects, and that also triggers new ideas in yourself – you get different angles from other people, so it’s a very interactive experience of books.” – shared reading group member
“If you read by yourself, you only get your own interpretation of the book. If you read with other people and talk about what you’re reading you get other people’s interpretations of the books as well, which is always more interesting as it makes you look at things in a way that you wouldn’t by yourself necessarily. Everyone brings their own experiences to the book.” – shared reading group member
So how are we celebrating World Read Aloud Day?
On the day itself, we have a number of our open community shared reading groups running in Liverpool, Wigan, Wirral, the South West and London (in Kensington and Chelsea and South London). Come along and enjoy a good read, read out loud. There’s no pressure to join in the reading; listening is just as good. Find a full list of our open groups happening on World Read Aloud Day on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us
We’ll be sharing stories from our group members about how reading aloud has had an impact on their lives, as well as their reading choices;
We’re also building up a whole YouTube channel of reading aloud alongside Liverpool Learning Partnership in their City of Readers project. There’s already a ton of great videos up there, with readers sharing their favourite stories and poems aloud from a wide range of literature, and in the days leading up to World Read Aloud Day we’ll be showcasing a video a day from the City of Readers channel on social media, counting down to a wonderful day of reading aloud.
For World Read Aloud Day we’d love for you to share your own favourite with us aloud, by filming your selection and sending it to us for inclusion on the City of Readers YouTube channel. All you need to do is record yourself reading, save your video as a .wav file and send it through to us by e-mailing email@example.com. You can read anything from 2 to 25 minutes long, and please include your details and photo so we can make you one of our read aloud stars!
Why not let us know how you’ll celebrating World Read Aloud Day by commenting here, or sharing your stories of reading aloud with us on Twitter or Facebook.