Celebrating and growing the Shared Reading Community in the South West

The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis has been in Bristol to thank the South West region’s volunteers for their powerful efforts to build the Reading Revolution.

Jane also took to the stage at Bristol Central Library as part of Bristol Literary Festival to talk about the power of reading aloud together to transform lives – and urged new volunteers to join the charge.

I started thinking about what has become The Reader because of an uncomfortable feeling as a university teacher that great literature should not just be for literature students.

Understanding how people get broken – and what they then do – there’s a lot of that in great literature. If we want a Shared Reading group to be available to every person in any community, like the Girl Guides, my task now is to find 100,000 people who love reading.

In Bristol alone, Shared Reading groups are already happening across the city’s libraries, as well as in council sheltered accommodation and a care home, totalling 13 groups led by 17 volunteers reaching almost 100 people each week.

By March next year, The Reader needs to recruit 24 more volunteers to run weekly Shared Reading groups in the city so that we can make it possible for more than 250 people to benefit from reading aloud together with others in their local community.

With the help of Bristol Ageing Better and Bristol Libraries, new Reader Leaders get a full training and support package. The next Read to Lead training courses are scheduled to start on 2 and 19 November.

Find out more at www.thereader.org.uk/getinvolved or email local organiser josephineharwood@thereader.org.uk for more information.

Mina, a Bristol volunteer, said: “Claire and I read in Bishopston Library – we were there on the day the new building first opened, just reading to each other, but now we regularly get 12 people coming along each week.

“People were initially a bit resistant to reading poetry, they said they didn’t understand or it wasn’t for them, but between us, through Shared Reading as a group, we come to a greater understanding together.

“We’ve seen some real transformations in our group members, whether people new to the city that are now fully-fledged members of the community, or those who have been quietly dealing with the loss of a loved one.

“But it’s not a one-way street – I get a lot out of it. Shared Reading is such a transportable thing, I’ve even taken some books along when a friend has been in hospital and read aloud with her – I have no shame!”

Ahead of her appearance on BBC Radio Bristol’s Health and Happiness show with Jonathan Ray on Saturday, Jane Davis said: “It’s brilliant to hear the stories of our local volunteers – hearing what they get out of Shared Reading.

“When they say things like ‘I brought a text to the group and felt like I understood it, but when you get there, you get to hear others points of view and you find there’s just so much more depth to people’. It’s just gorgeous.

If you’re interested in volunteering with The Reader in Bristol, why not come along to a Shared Reading group to experience it for yourself and meet fellow Shared Reading community members.

You can drop your local organiser Josephine an email at josephineharwood@thereader.org.uk or simply drop The Reader head office a line at  volunteer@thereader.org.uk.

This Reader Get Together was made possible thanks to the support of players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

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