Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham Libraries collaborate to bring people together and books to life

Libraries across South Yorkshire are working together for the first time with national charity, The Reader, to give people across South Yorkshire the chance to experience literature’s life-supporting benefits.

Three libraries across South Yorkshire are launching their first joint project, supported by Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants, that will see The Reader train more than 30 people to deliver 18 Shared Reading groups in a range of library and community venues across the region.

Shared Reading – bringing great books, poems and plays to life through live reading aloud and group discussion – is a powerful group experience that sparks connection, reflection and discovery. By creating space for people of all ages, backgrounds or life situations to explore their inner lives and develop meaningful relationships with others, Shared Reading develops confidence, improves wellbeing and builds community.

The Reader already supports 500 Shared Reading groups that take place up and down the country each week, thanks to a growing movement of almost 900 volunteers. More than 80 of these groups are currently hosted in public libraries where they help to support the health and wellbeing of local communities, and help individuals to develop a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Earlier this month we celebrated Libraries Week so it’s fantastic to follow that with the launch of a new project across South Yorkshire which will bring people from the region’s diverse communities together to enjoy Shared Reading in libraries and local venues,” said The Reader’s founder and director, Jane Davis.

Research tells us there are one million elderly people who are chronically lonely in the UK, one in four people have mental health issues, and one in 10 homes doesn’t possess a single book. In our fast-paced digital age, when many of us are rushed, stressed or disconnected from others, Shared Reading is a tool that can help people to carve out that rare time and space in which we can create human connections, connect with ourselves and engage with meaningful thoughts in a unique, powerful way.”

Representing the three library services involved, Nick Stopforth, Head of Service at Doncaster library said: “We are delighted to have been supported by Arts Council England to deliver what will be an exciting and worthwhile project. Shared Reading is a proven model with clear health outcomes. By collaborating and pooling together our resources across three Local Authorities and upskilling our staff and volunteers to deliver groups, this provides a fantastic springboard by which libraries and The Reader can play a valuable role in connecting our communities and promoting well-being through meaningful activity.

Alison Clark, Director North, Arts Council England said “We were pleased to welcome The Reader to our National Portfolio in April – its Shared Reading project plays an important role in connecting people through the power of reading. And I’m pleased that support through our National Lottery Project Grants programme will allow The Reader to bring this work to libraries in South Yorkshire.

Libraries play an important role as community hubs bringing arts and culture to everyone and the training offered by The Reader will enable a wider audience to experience the many benefits of Shared Reading groups.

To get involved with volunteering with The Reader in South Yorkshire, email volunteer@thereader.org.uk or visit www.thereader.org.uk/volunteer.

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