Featured Poem: Daffodils by William Wordsworth

This week’s poem, Daffodils by William Wordsworth, is a favourite amongst staff here at The Reader Organisation, and a poem regularly used in groups. Through the beautiful language of this poem, Wordsworth powerfully communicates his appreciation for the undeniably mesmerising nature of daffodils. I particularly love the description of the daffodils ‘fluttering and dancing in the breeze’.


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

by William Wordsworth

Featured Poem: The Salutation by Thomas Traherne

Spring has arrived and how nice it is to see a glimpse of sunshine, to notice the evenings getting a little lighter, and to see new life spring up around us as flowers grow and trees blossom. I often associate Spring with hope, it is a beautiful time of year. We are surrounded by new life and this is something that year after year, remains magical to me, it has an almost miraculous feel to it which must, I feel, never be taken for granted.
Thomas Trahene’s below poem ‘The Salutation’ is full of beauty and hope, it celebrates life, and what better time to read this than at the beginning of Spring?

The Salutation

These little Limbs,
These Eys and Hands which here I find,
This panting Heart wherwith my Life begins;
Where have ye been? Behind
What Curtain were ye from me hid so long!
Where was, in what Abyss, my new-made Tongue?

When silent I
So many thousand thousand Years
Beneath the Dust did in a Chaos ly,
How could I Smiles, or Tears,
Or Lips, or Hands, or Eys, or Ears perceiv?
Welcom ye Treasures which I now receiv.

I that so long
Was Nothing from Eternity,
Did little think such Joys as Ear and Tongue
To celebrat or see:
Such Sounds to hear, such Hands to feel, such Feet,
Beneath the Skies, on such a Ground to meet.

New burnisht Joys!
Which finest Gold and Pearl excell!
Such sacred Treasures are the Limbs of Boys
In which a Soul doth dwell:
Their organized Joints and azure Veins
More Wealth include than all the World contains.

From Dust I rise
And out of Nothing now awake;
These brighter Regions which salute mine Eys
A Gift from God I take:
The Earth, the Seas, the Light, the lofty Skies,
The Sun and Stars are mine; if these I prize.

A Stranger here,
Strange things doth meet, strange Glory see,
Strange Treasures lodg’d in this fair World appear,
Strange all and New to me:
But that they mine should be who Nothing was,
That Strangest is of all; yet brought to pass.

by Thomas Traherne

Events on Thursday 6th March

We’ve got lots going on this Thursday including plans for World Book Day, so below is a brief description of what we have in store, plus a special announcement.

Showcase Event for Secondary School Teachers:

Firstly, we are delighted to announce that Frank Cottrell Boyce will be joining us as a special guest at our Showcase event Reading for pleasure effect in education this Thursday.

Frank Cottrell Boyce is patron of The Reader Organisation and author of numerous books for children, including The Unforgotten Coat (Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2012) and Millions (Carniegie Medial 2004), and writer of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. He is a passionate advocate of reading for pleasure in schools and we are very excited to have him with us on Thursday.

“It’s when you read for pleasure that things stay with you. That’s what changed my life.”

Frank Cottrell Boyce

The event is for teacher’s in Secondary Schools and will showcase The Reader Organisation’s work with young people in Secondary education, allowing attendees to discover the benefits shared reading can have on individual pupils as well as on schools as a whole.

Date: 6 March 2014
Time: 4.40-6.30pm
Address: 6 March, 2014 Birkenhead Sixth Form College, Park Road West, Claughton Village, Prenton, Wirral CH43 8SQ;

For full details about the event please click here or scroll down to see our previous blog post about the event.

This is free to attend but booking is required. Please email abigailleader@thereader.org.uk to book your place.

World Book Day at Calderstones Mansion House:
For this year’s World Book Day, we have planned a fantastic afternoon all about books for children, who can come along dressed up as their favourite character for a special costume parade and get lost in lots of reading, rhymes, and craft.

Date: 6 March 2014
Time: 4-5.30pm
Place: Calderstones Mansion House, Calderstones Park, Liverpool, L18 3JD

Call 0151 724 5000 or email siobhanmealey@thereader.org.uk for more information.

Featured Poem: A Noiseless Patient Spider by Walt Whitman

This week’s Featured Poem comes from Walt Whitman, a 19th century poet, essayist and journalist whose work I’ve come across quite regularly in recent weeks. The chosen poem, A Noiseless Patient Spider, struck me with its ability to evoke clear images in my mind through very subtle, limited use of language.
I particularly like:

‘to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.’

This moment in the poem brings to my mind isolated spiders that often appear on the ceiling – which is a ‘vacant, vast surrounding’. Very often, the way the small black body of a spider contrasts with a pale ceiling makes the large blank space of the ceiling stand out. The following words ‘ot launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself; ever unreeling them – ever tirelessly speeding them’ manage to create an image of the spider beginning to build a web in this ‘vacant’ space, by trying to forge connections and attachments.

I particularly like this idea of creating new connections that runs through the poem, as it is of course, something we can all relate to, spider or human!

A Noiseless Patient Spider

A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

by Walt Whitman

Featured Poem: A Glimpse by Walt Whitman

As it is the Monday after Valentines day, I thought it seemed fitting to begin the week with a love poem, so as not to forget to celebrate love on a daily basis, as well as over Valentines.

I chose ‘A Glimpse’ by Walt Whitman because it is unique as a love poem in that it is not especially romantic, and it does not appear overtly excited by love. That is not to say however that it does not highlight love as something special, unique and important. In particular, I feel it demonstrates love as something constant, that maintains a subtle power to overcome the hustle and bustle of life we are regularly faced with.

In the poem, two people are placed in what is depicted as a busy and noisy bar ‘amid the noises of coming and going–of drinking and oath and smutty jest’. My immediate thought is that this might be a rather stressful setting for two people to meet and I wonder how this poem might take shape. However, through simplistic and subtle use of language, Whitman demonstrates an important recognition between two people of mutual contentment despite seemingly disruptive surroundings, where no beautiful descriptions are needed, no sunset, and no great gestures of love. ‘There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word.’ They are sharing a moment through a mutual understanding that they love one another, and during this their surroundings become unimportant.

For me, Whitman highlights something special about love here which is that it has the power to remain constant and special throughout those everyday disruptions such as being in a busy and noisy room that can make life more trying, and instead, makes room for ‘a glimpse’ of escapism.

A Glimpse

A GLIMPSE, through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room, around the stove,
late of a winter night–And I unremark’d seated in a corner;
Of a youth who loves me, and whom I love, silently approaching, and
seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand;
A long while, amid the noises of coming and going–of drinking and
oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little,
perhaps not a word.

by Walt Whitman

Celebrating The Year of the Horse

Here at The Reader Organisation we’re looking forward to celebrating the Chinese New Year this coming weekend. Today, Friday 31st January 2014 marks the Year of the Wood Horse, the seventh cycle of the Chinese Zodiac.

So, if you were born in the year of the horse, this year’s your year. But what can we expect from the characteristics of the horse? They hold a very positive outlook on life and know how to put people at ease with their friendly, welcoming manner and great sense of humour. Interestingly, the horse represents creativity, a quality that here at The Reader we think is very important and should be encouraged. There’s no better year then it seems to take on new creative pursuits, whether it be reading, writing or even a new craft such as knitting or crochet. Samuel Beckett (1906), Alice Munro (1931) and Hanif Kureishi (1954) are just a few of our favourite authors born in the year of the horse.

A text that springs immediately to mind when thinking about the role of horses in literature is the classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Poignantly, the first time she meets her beloved Mr. Rochester he appears through the mist on his powerful horse in this mysterious passage:

‘As this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie’s tales, wherein figured a North-of-England spirit called a “Gytrash,” which, in the form of horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me’.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

The mythical and magical nature of horses then have been both part of English culture as well as Chinese.

Liverpool’s Chinatown have a whole host of exciting celebrations in store this weekend across the city to celebrate the year of the horse including Chinese street food market, Thai Chi demonstrations, Fire cracker displays and Lion, Dragon and Unicorn street parades. For further information about these celebrations visit It’sLiverpool

Half Term Hijinks is back!


As February Half Term approaches are you feeling stuck for something to do? No need to fret! We’ve got a whole week of fun lined up at Calderstones Mansion House with our latest Half Term Hijinks.
From Monday 17th to Friday 21st February, there’s a ton of fun in store with reading and adventure galore, cake decorating, craft sessions, a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and much more. We’re holding activities for all ages starting right from the little ones to big kids who are young at heart. So why not join in?

Each day has a different theme – so check out the info below to get a taste of what we have in store for you…

Monster Monday: Full of monster-themed stories including The Gruffalo.

Terrifying Tuesday: Be transported (if you dare) into the creepy world of Uncle Montague and his tales of terror!

Pirate Wednesday: Sail with Ro and Siobhan on our Pirate Picnic Adventure session full of piratey stories, Scurvy Sandwiches and lots of yummy treasures.

Cats vs Dogs Thursday: Which side are you on? Share some brilliant dog stories and cat tales and make your own cat and dog masks to take home.

Mad Hatter Friday: Come along to our Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for Alice in Wonderland escapades and nonsense galore. Join Ro and Siobhan to plunge through the rabbit-hole into a world of rhyming caterpillars, watch-bearing rabbits and, best of all… cake decorating!

Here’s a link to the full-line up of our Half Term Hijinks at Calderstones including all details on bookings and times: http://www.thereader.org.uk/connect-at-calderstones/half-term-hijinks

All Half Term Hijinks activities require booking unless otherwise stated, please contact Roisin to book your place: roisinhyland@thereader.org.uk or call 0151 724 5000

Children under 5 must be accompanied by an adult. If your child is over 5, you are welcome to leave them with us or stay and join in! Please let us know when you book.

We look forward to seeing lots of you there!

The Big Night Benefit

If you’re in London this weekend, you can enjoy a night of fun, film, dancing and fifties fabulous-ness at one of the city’s best kept secrets big night benefitWhirled Cinema. Not only this, but your night out will be benefiting The Reader Organisation!

Maggie Roy, a kind and generous friend of The Reader Organisation, has arranged this Big Night Benefit to raise money for our work in London and around the UK.

Come along and kick-start your night with a classy cocktail, enjoy a screening of ‘Big Night’, an Italian Feast of a film about love, family and food, then turn the music up to dance the night away. Fifties-style glad rags are very welcome – we look forward to seeing you there!

Big Night Benefit: Saturday January 25th 2014
7pm Cocktails, 8pm Film and dancing

Venue: Whirled Cinema, 259-260 Hardess St, London SE24 0HN

Advance Tickets: £10.Visit our website to find out how to reserve your place.

All proceeds to benefit The Reader Organisation

Help us build a City of Readers!

impact48_tightIt’s not too late to register to be a part of our weekend with Impact 48 at Calderstones Mansion House where we will be getting our creative heads together to build a brand new website, app and marketing stategy for our City of Readers project, in partnership with Liverpool City Council and Liverpool Learning Partnership. With just 48 hours to do this, there’s a pretty huge amount of thinking and creating to get done, so we are looking for volunteers who would be interested in helping out.

How can you get involved?

Volunteer Tech Support
Are you or do you know I.T and web specialists, software developers and app developers? Do you know a thing or two about marketing or social media that could help us build an innovative marketing strategy? Are you full of creative, techie ideas? If so, we would love you to join us for an inspiring weekend of ideas and development for a digital vision for our city of readers project in  the beautiful Calderstones Mansion House. We’re also seeking creative decorators to help us decorate our City of Readers office and make it an inspirational, exciting space for work.

Sign up here: http://impact48.org/next-event-the-reader-organisation/

Join our Reading MarathonCalderstones Mansion House c Dave Jones
As part of this weekend, we are also planning to kick start the City of Readers Project and Liverpool Year of Reading by recording 48 hours of reading and collecting 4,800 books – a challenge indeed!

We need lots of readers to book a slot in the reading marathon and be filmed reading their favourite stories and poems aloud. Each slot is up to 25 minutes long and we’ve got slots available over the whole weekend for you to come along to Calderstones and be filmed reading aloud. Email bethpochin@thereader.org.uk to register, book your slot and find out more.

Don’t worry if Liverpool is too far for you or you have a busy weekend – you can still take part by filming yourself reading aloud and sending it to us. Save your video as a .wav file and send it through to bethpochin@thereader.org.uk , along with your details and a photo. We’ll take anything from 2 minutes to 25minutes!

Drop in to donate your unwanted books and find out moreWe’ll be opening Calderstones Mansion House to the public from 11.30am on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th for visitors to pop in and find out more about the project and our wider work. One of the aims of the weekend is to collect 4800 book donations, so if you’ve got an unread collection gathering dust and clogging up your shelves, please do bring them along – we’d love to take them off your hands and bring them back to life through our City of Readers project.

If you would like any more information about the weekend, please get in touch with Beth: bethpochin@thereader.org.uk

Come along and help us build a City of Readers!


Featured Poem: At That Hour by James Joyce

Today is the anniversary of the death of established and influential writer, James Joyce. It feels fitting therefore, to post a poem written by him, and this morning, I’ve been newly inspired, when coming across At That Hour, which I have chosen for today’s featured poem.

At That Hour inspired me to consider the connotations that are often associated with the word loneliness, how it makes me feel, and I realised I am accustomed to negative associations, of boredom, fear and darkness and I wondered if this is something we all have a tendency to do. Rarely is loneliness referred to in a positive light. But interestingly, it is in this poem.

When reading, I felt that the phrase, ‘That hour’ refers to a moment we can all recognise, a moment of loneliness. This made me think about the fact that ironically, we all experience loneliness, it is an inevitable part of life. Joyce helps us to think of loneliness in a new light, as an opportunity to ‘Awake to hear the sweet harps play’, to notice a beauty that remains present ‘When all things have repose’, even in the darkest moments of a night, and to be comforted by the familiarity of things such as the dark sky and the sound of wind, rather than to fear it. The references to our surroundings as ‘soft’ and full of ‘sweet music’ are comforting, and make the prospect of loneliness feel much more soothing. Perhaps then, rather than to fight against loneliness, to see it as a negative, intimidating prospect, we ought to accept it, as part of life, and to use it to our benefit, to look to enjoy the simple things that are around us by embracing the beauty of an opportunity to repose.

At That Hour

At that hour when all things have repose,
O lonely watcher of the skies,
Do you hear the night wind and the sighs
Of harps playing unto Love to unclose
The pale gates of sunrise?

When all things repose, do you alone
Awake to hear the sweet harps play
To Love before him on his way,
And the night wind answering in antiphon
Till night is overgone?

Play on, invisible harps, unto Love,
Whose way in heaven is aglow
At that hour when soft lights come and go,
Soft sweet music in the air above
And in the earth below.

James Joyce