Award Winning Volunteers in Knowsley

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Last week our wonderful team of volunteers in Knowsley took second place in the Special Recognition for Outstanding Contribution in Communities at the Knowsley Sport and Cultural Awards 2016.

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Poets Don’t Lie – The Reader Volunteer Anthology

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Introducing our latest anthology, Poets Don’t Lie, created by and dedicated to the volunteers who make possible so many of our Shared Reading projects across the UK.
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Big Lottery Volunteers celebrate end of a remarkable chapter

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As the Big Lottery Merseyside project comes to an end, Volunteers met to celebrate the end of one chapter, and the beginning of the next. The Reader’s Head of Membership, Ben Davis pays tribute to a fantastic project and the people who made it.

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Volunteer with The Reader in Merseyside

Looking for something new to do in the New Year? Want to use your love of reading to help make a big difference? We’re currently recruiting for people to join our Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, in a variety of roles.

“Their faces light up when we walk in. They look forward to that hour. And when we leave, after being with a group, we feel great ourselves.”
Our volunteers provide shared reading sessions for older people across Merseyside on a weekly basis, either as Care Home Readers working in pairs to deliver groups in care homes, and Reading Friends who visit older people in their own homes. Full training and support is provided, and you don’t need to be a lifelong or experienced reader to take part – all abilities are welcome.
If you don’t feel that a reading role is for you just yet, then we also offer Admin Assistant and Admin Reader roles at our offices in Calderstones and Birkenhead, with the opportunity to develop your personal reading as well as helping us with our day-to-day running, preparing short stories and poems to be read within groups across Merseyside.
Take a look at the video below to see what being part of the Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme means to our beneficiaries and volunteers:
Volunteer training will commence on Friday 22nd January 2016 at Calderstones Mansion, Liverpool. For more information about the Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme, please contact Megg Hewlett, Volunteer Manager: megghewlett@thereader.org.uk

Sea Fever, Fish and Chips: Merseyside Volunteers Celebration

From Christopher Lynn, Volunteer Assistant

‘I must go down to the seas again,
to the lonely sea and the sky’
John Masefield – Sea Fever

Pic 5All of The Reader’s Merseyside-based volunteer projects joined forces for our ‘No Frills Fish and Chips social’ in New Brighton last week. The Big Lottery, Off the Page and Calderstones volunteers came together to round off the summer with the sea, a stroll and some tasty fish and chips. It was our way to thank our volunteers for their relentless care and commitment.

We were welcomed by the endless blue of the wide sea and sky on a beautifully mild, calm evening (phew!). After gathering at The Mediterranean Sea Fish Bar we set about ordering and serving our group of 40 or so volunteers, efficiently and swiftly taken care of by Big Lottery Manager Megg!

Whilst feasting, we had the opportunity to act as socialites; chatting, welcoming and spotting connections between our fellow volunteer colleagues.

After dodging a few gulls and conquering our mountains of chips, we eventually gave in to that elusive pull of the sea as some of the group set off for a full-bellied stroll. We settled to take in the evening sea view and were treated to an improvised reading of John Masefield’s Sea Fever from Emma – a stand-out moment for one of volunteers who kindly reflected her highlights in one of my admin sessions this week:

‘It was good to get together – meeting new people and staff you haven’t seen. I enjoyed when we did the poem on our walk!…Getting out and about. The Fish and Chips were absolutely beautiful!’ – Lesley

Pic 1A satisfying summary that seems to touch upon that need to feel connected; to experience the camaraderie of volunteership, as well as being part of The Reader family.

A special thanks to The Mediterranean Sea Fish Bar who prepared mountains of fish and chips and were very accommodating when our forty strong group descended on their shop. A real team effort from Gillian, Katie, Megg, Celia and Emma who planned the event, communicated throughout and arranged various meeting points to suit the different needs of our volunteers – many thanks everyone!

Find out more about our volunteering projects in Merseyside and across the country on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering

“It is such a meaningful thing to do”: Volunteering in Barnet

DSC_0028The Reader’s volunteer-led projects in Barnet, North London were our first outside of our base in Merseyside and since their start in 2011 they’ve gone from strength to strength, engaging local people in the pleasure – and often, the power – that comes from shared reading.

Our Barnet volunteer projects focus on reading with community groups, memory loss groups and within care and day centre settings for people living with dementia and their carers. We’re working with Jewish Care, Altogether Better and Comic Relief to enable volunteers to receive training and ongoing support to lead groups in pairs, sustaining the shared reading experience for those who we already read with and bringing it to many more people.

Our volunteers in Barnet are from all walks of life and backgrounds – some have joined us after long careers in healthcare and related settings, some have previous experience with sharing reading. Others have experienced the impacts great literature has had on people they are close to, or just simply have a passion for reading that they want to pass onto others.

Jennifer began her volunteering journey with us after regularly attending a shared reading group with her grandmother. She took part in training and went onto run her own group at the care home she worked at. Her story shows how choosing to volunteer can make a change not only to the lives of those who read, but to volunteers themselves:

“I left school with very poor qualifications, but by having the experience of facilitating in shared reading I was led to a more formal course of learning and have since been able to enrol in a course for serious readers, the Reading in Practice MA. I never imagined I would be working towards earning a degree in my whole life so that is a big surprise and benefit for me. It gave me the confidence to leave full-time employment and ask to be a fully-fledged volunteer shared reading facilitator in a community group at Burnt Oak Library. This is good as I have read a lot more short stories and now we are reading a novel together.

You don’t have to have an English degree or any qualifications to be a shared reading facilitator. You just have to be willing to learn a new craft, and be available once a week, ongoing. You equally share the responsibility of running the group with another shared reading facilitator. There is also the support of a network of other volunteers who are all on the journey of becoming shared reading facilitators. Even the best are still learning. You don’t even have to know that much about poems or books.

From admittedly not having a scrap of appreciation for poetry and an increasing sense of shame for not reading very much at all, I have developed a love for poetry and a desire to read. I can’t wait each week to listen to people reading. It is such a rare thing. I feel I have definitely gained more confidence in public speaking. I have far better conversational skills and am able to quote poems, which makes me sound like I have been reading poetry all my life! It makes me feel really clever. Everyone involved is warm and friendly and it is such a meaningful thing to do.

Side effects of volunteering for The Reader: One day down the line, you may have to buy a bookshelf. It might make you visit the library (or even apply for a library card!). You may read that book you have been ignoring for ages. You may develop a love of poetry. You can talk to others about books and poems without any snobbery or pretence. You may make friends. You may want to run more groups. You may be really surprised at what reading together can create. You will definitely enjoy it.”

Read Jennifer’s story in full on our website.

We are now recruiting for more volunteers to join us in Barnet on our Jewish Care, Altogether Better (reading with community groups/community memory loss groups) and Comic Relief (reading with people living with dementia and their carers) projects. Volunteers will be paired to run shared reading groups, with full training and ongoing support from The Reader.

For more information on these opportunities, please contact Paul Higgins: paulhiggins@thereader.org.uk or call 07985 718744. You can also see our website for further details. 

Volunteers lead the way for shared reading in Leicestershire

“It has been really exciting to watch something grow (like a seed) where it didn’t exist before, to watch it flourish and to be part of bringing that about is really exciting… I am always amazed at what we can learn through sharing our experiences with others.” – volunteer group leader

One of our groups sharing some reading as part of the Leicestershire Libraries project
One of our groups sharing some reading as part of the Leicestershire Libraries project

Since April 2014, shared reading has been taking place weekly in libraries across Leicestershire. The Reader Organisation partnered with Leicestershire County Council for the Leicestershire Libraries project, with volunteers being trained and supported to set up and run reading groups using our shared reading model. From one pilot group, seven groups now run across the area – all but one of which are led by our volunteers – and over 170 people in the area have experienced shared reading since the project began. We’re happy to say that feedback has been very positive, with benefits such as a deeper sense of relaxation and the forming of friendships emerging from the comments given by group members:

“I really have enjoyed beginning my week with this session. It’s a chance to catch up with the friends I’ve made and to lose myself in the depths of stories every week.”

“It has become a ‘must’ for my husband, he has memory problems, and looks forward to the group.”

“I need a goal to make me leave the house. I now look forward to Fridays.”

You can read more about some of our Leicestershire group members and their growing connections with shared reading on our website: Leicestershire Reader Stories

The success of the project simply wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of our volunteers, who give up their time week on week to offer the opportunity to take part in shared reading to new and returning members. Their commitment and enthusiasm has allowed bonds between those who read to flourish, and the experience of connecting with literature and the community has proved rewarding for them too. One of our volunteer group leaders shared their story of how they’re finding it so far:

“One of the first things which struck me about the groups is the ability of poems and short stories to open (or reopen) people’s minds to new thoughts. I believe there is something ‘childlike’ about all art – but literature, in particular, for me, is about allowing ourselves to play ‘let’s pretend’ and be carried along with the unfamiliar experiences/ideas which the author or poet is guiding us through. To do this in a group is extraordinary and seeing how different members respond is fascinating.”

The project has been recommissioned for 2015-16, enabling it to reach even newer heights – plans are underway to open two new groups in Loughborough and Market Harborough.

We’re currently recruiting for new volunteers to join the project and help run our shared reading groups across the area. Training will take place on Monday 7th, Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th September at Wigston Library, Leicester, with continued ongoing support from The Reader Organisation and the library service.

If you are interested in volunteering in Leicestershire or want to know more about the project, please contact Nicola Bennison, Leicestershire Libraries Project Coordinator: nicolabennison@thereader.org.uk

Take a look at our current list of open groups in Leicestershire – in Melton Mowbray, Coalville, Hinckley, Wigston, Blaby, Oadby and Glenfield – on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us

Off the Page: Reading with Liverpool Families

042Off the Page is our new Liverpool Families project, which aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged children across the city through shared reading. Working with the Liverpool Families Programme, over the course of three years we aim to reach 500 disadvantaged children through regular one-on-one sessions led by volunteers.

Not only will the project directly engage the children themselves with a love for reading for pleasure, in some cases revisited and others for the first time, but will also extend to the adults in their lives – be they parents, carers, family support workers. community staff or volunteers, meaning that reading experiences are more likely to continue.

During the project, 40 of the most disadvantaged children will come together for an extraordinary week-long ‘Book It!’ reading experience at Calderstones Mansion House. This fun reading space will allow the children to make friends, form a positive relationship with reading and one another and relax in the calm, inspiring environment of Calderstones Park. ‘Book It!’ ran for the first time last year, and was part of our drive for knowing that many more children could benefit greatly from the unique experience it provided.

Emma Melling, one of our Off the Page Coordinators, tells us more:

It’s often an exciting time at The Reader – in a staff team that’s almost doubled since I arrived in 2013, there’s always a new face to greet at the Monday yoga class or a new cake to try amongst the friendly chatter in the staff kitchen. I was recently brought on to the new Liverpool Families project Off the Page and can’t describe the feeling of excitement that came with the realisation we’d be working with some of Liverpool’s most worthy recipients of our magical potion – shared reading.

In one way or another I’ve been working with disadvantaged teenagers for over a decade. Of all my experiences though, a project with Looked After Children last summer stood out. We spent a fortnight reading out loud with children who didn’t see themselves as readers, who weren’t used to being around fun adults and had to relearn a sense of play. The results were profound. One child from the Book It! Summer School was waking up at 5 to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Another chose to read after several clear ‘no’s when asked. A third came out of her shell, speaking more frequently and more loudly. The 20 or so children were grouped into teams of animals, and I was a fellow member of the Wolf team. As the days progressed, all the boys from the Wolves showed pleasant surprise at being praised, then pushed themselves to be praised again. By the end, through their own volition, every Wolf read. There was a willingness by all children on the last day to take home books we’d recommended to them specifically. A real trust had been built.

Thankfully some key decision makers heard about the magic and came to see it for themselves. They have gone on to develop Off the Page which, if we are successful, will reach over 500 of Liverpool’s children over the next three years. So if like me, you want to sip at the magic potion and share your passion for reading, get in touch!

We’re currently looking for volunteers to make weekly visits to a child (aged 11-16) either in their own home, foster home or community setting to read aloud and discuss literature with them. Volunteer positions will last for a minimum of six months for one hour at the same time each week, and are set across four areas within Liverpool – Kensington, Everton, Toxteth or Walton.

More information about the project and specific volunteer roles can be found on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/off-the-page

If you think you could take part, please get in touch with Celia Jordan, Off the Page Volunteer Manager: celiajordan@thereader.org.uk

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: http://givingtuesday.org.uk/stories/combat-a-disconnected-world.html

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: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/calderstonesmansion

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: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/readerorg

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: http://givingtuesday.org.uk/welcome.html

Volunteering with The Reader Organisation in Devon

reading 1The Reader Organisation’s volunteering presence is about to grow in South West England, as we look for more people to help us continue to develop our shared reading projects in the area.

We’ve already got valued volunteers on board with us in Wiltshire reading with people living with dementia, and now we’re recruiting for volunteer group facilitators for our community shared reading project in Devon.

Applicants will join us to run Feel Better with a Book groups at libraries in Exeter, Tiverton and Cullompton. Funded by Devon County Council and run by The Reader Organisation, Feel Better with a Book groups provide a stimulating environment where people can meet weekly to connect with each other through the shared reading of great literature. This opportunity will give you the chance to become part of The Reader Organisation in the South West, receiving fully funded training, as well as engage with literature on a fresh and emotionally stimulating perspective.

For a short amount of time – one and a half hours per week – you will be acting as an assistant group facilitator in a weekly Feel Better with a Book group before training to independently facilitate the same group. We ask for a minimum of a one year commitment, but the opportunity is ongoing and can last for as long as you and your group want it to.

This position will also benefit from a free place on The Reader Organisation’s revolutionary Read to Lead training, a three-day course in shared reading which will qualify you as a shared reading practitioner able to facilitate in community settings. The three day training will take place at The Hayridge Centre, Cullompton, Devon from Tuesday 25th – Thursday 27th November.

One of current volunteers in Devon explains what volunteering with The Reader Organisation means to her:

“I saw the opportunity to be a ‘Read to Lead’  volunteer as a way of combining what I most enjoy; being in conversation with people of all ages and reading wonderful literature together.  I am learning new ways of appreciating others’ thoughts and responses to what has been read, as well as becoming better at listening and staying focused in general.   The group is fun, engaging and relaxed at the same time. I have been reading a lot more on my own steam too – as a result of feeling inspired to do so.  This is volunteering at its best for me!”

If you have excellent literacy and comprehension, are good at reading aloud or willing to learn to improve your skills, have the ability to manage group dynamics and a desire to relate to people in an open and human way, you could become a Volunteer Assistant Group Facilitator with us in Devon.

For more information on volunteering with us in Devon, please contact Emily Lezzeri: emilylezzeri@thereader.org.uk or call 07450 167788, and see our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/south-west

Full details of our open Feel Better with a Book groups running across Devon and the South West can be found on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us