As the UK marked National Volunteers’ Week this week, a group of volunteers with The Reader, have been celebrating an exciting new chapter at The Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts in North Belfast.
The Reader, a charity which brings people together and books to life, is spearheading a reading revolution to bring the health and social benefits of Shared Reading to local communities across the UK. This week they visited a new group of volunteers in North Belfast who will lead the movement in Northern Ireland. The 14 newly trained volunteers will now bring Shared Reading groups into libraries, cafes, care homes, schools and community centres across North Belfast and beyond.
Shared Reading is a powerful yet deceptively simple model which creates a positive impact for people of all ages and backgrounds, particularly for those affected by social isolation or who live with mental health issues or dementia. Weekly Shared Reading groups provide a friendly, welcoming space where stories and poems are read aloud and thoughts and reflections can be shared. Group members find personal meaning in the literature, improving their emotional well-being, and form social connections with others, creating stronger and more supportive communities.
Marnie Kennedy, Coordinator at The Duncairn and a volunteer Shared Reading Organiser, has been working with The Reader for four years and welcomes this growth of the volunteer team in Northern Ireland. She said:
“It’s wonderful to have so many new volunteers on board. We had twice as many people apply as there were places on the training course and we have waiting lists for all our existing Shared Reading groups so we know the demand is there! Now we need to find more partners and host venues who want to bring this incredible thing into their service.”
The Reader currently supports over 560 specially-trained Reader Leader volunteers across the UK but the charity’s founder and director Jane Davis says their work is far from done:
“I’m thrilled to see Shared Reading taking off in Northern Ireland. When we started doing this over a decade ago, we could never have imagined how many people we would reach, how many group members and volunteers Shared Reading would have an impact on. It’s fantastic that now the volunteers from The Duncairn will bring that to communities in North Belfast.”
“There is a quote we often use at The Reader. James Baldwin said: ‘You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.’ And that’s what Shared Reading does, it is a brilliant way to tackle those big social issues that affect every individual and every community in the country. We won’t rest until everyone, no matter who or where they are, can find a group near them.”