In a world that appears to be more connected than ever, many recognise that we are living in an age of loneliness. People of every age, social class, ethnic origin, educational background and health situation are experiencing loneliness and isolation. Many describe a feeling of disconnection or ‘stuckness‘ in their lives.
Public services cannot respond to these challenges alone. Community based approaches can reduce the demand on clinical services such as the NHS by supporting people to live well, manage their own health and wellbeing, and participate more fully in their own communities – communities which are strengthened as a result.
For over a decade, The Reader has been changing lives across the UK and beyond by bringing people together through great literature. Since 2002 we have pioneered the use of Shared Reading, a simple, non-medical yet powerful intervention which is proven to improve well-being, reduce isolation and strengthen communities.
What is Shared Reading?
Shared Reading is a simple idea with a powerful impact. By bringing people together in small groups to read aloud a book, short story or poem, our Shared Reading groups create a safe, welcoming space where individual thought and feeling is recognised and valued. Group members can choose to read aloud, share personal reflections or simply to listen – in this way, individuals form real connections with the literature and with each other.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
Many people who come to Shared Reading are experiencing a transition in life – bereavement, retirement, a change in personal health or within their social networks, entering a care setting or having a loved one do so. For these people, coming together in a safe space to enjoy a great story, to feel stimulated or inspired by great literature, to talk about ‘real’ things and to share personal feeling provides something which has been lacking. Shared Reading can chip away at that feeling of ‘stuckness’, it can empower individuals to make a change, some Group members have told us that it has saved their lives.
We believe that Shared Reading can improve the lives of everyone – prisoners, children in care, people recovering from substance misuse or living with dementia, chronic pain or mental health issues.
Research has shown that Shared Reading can effect a statistically significant improvement for people of every age and walk of life.
· 77% of groups members in Criminal Justice settings said that Shared Reading helped them think about changes in their futures.
· 83% of Criminal Justice staff feel that they’re relationship with service users is better because of the Shared Reading group.
· 25% of group members report that they use their GP less joining a Reader group.
· 90% of group members report that attending a group is an important event in their week, connecting them to others in their community.
· 91% of school staff recorded improvement in pupils’ confidence with books.
· 71% of parents believed that reading together has improved their relationship with their child.
The Reader deliver Shared Reading groups in a range of settings across the UK including in prisons, hospitals, care homes, schools, libraries, community centres and in workplaces.
If you’d like to attend a Shared Reading session you can find a group near you.
Alternatively if you’d like to meet us and find out more about our work, check our latest events listings.
Through our flagship course Read to Lead, we have trained over 5000 people to bring Shared Reading into their own workplace or community. We also run a variety of courses which have been designed to inspire and challenge readers, build confidence and leaderships skills, and improve well-being. Find out more about all our courses.