Reader Story: Neil, Greater Manchester Probation Trust

“Some guys on the wing said I was doing this group to get out of work. I came the first time and I enjoyed the atmosphere and what I got out of it. I wanted to come back.”

Neil* has been involved in the group since the first week. He has said that he likes the stories we read but that:

“They’re more interesting because we’re talking about them.”

His confidence has increased and he has contributed more and more to discussions since that time. He shares stories from his own life – about a time when he was homeless, for example. And he has read aloud for us despite being very shy to do this at the outset.

He has a very keen interest in the language in the texts we read – particularly in the poetry – and lingers over the words/techniques that he thinks the writer is using well:

“I really enjoyed Stopping by Woods by Robert Frost. The use of verbs, language…it’s so poetic.”

And he has written some poetry since he began the Shared Reading group and has shared this with the group very proudly at the end of our sessions.

Neil shows a keen interest in ‘bettering’ himself, in learning and education. When we were reading The Bet by Anton Chekhov and discussing how the prisoner in the story passes his time, Neil said that the education programme in the prison had enabled him to get some qualifications that he hadn’t achieved when he was younger, as he left school at 15. He had welcomed the chance to do this.

When it comes to the Shared Reading group he clearly sees it as a learning experience that is of great value to him:

“We’re all learning to communicate better. That’s a really important tool.”

“I think all the stories we read teach us that we shouldn’t judge people we come into contact with. We make judgements all the time – we do when we’re reading about characters in the stories. We all need to take people as we find them.”

“You hear a lot of chat about people’s crimes in this place. In this room we’re talking about other things, so many other things. And we’re listening to each other. I’ve learned that we’re all essentially the same.”


* Please note all Reader Stories are anonymised

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