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The Reader’s research partner, the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool, seeks to set the world agenda in:

  • Reading, health and well-being
  • New digital technologies and the future of meaning
  • The role of literature in modelling creative thinking about human existence


'What Literature Can Do’: An investigation into the effectiveness of shared reading as a whole population health intervention

This report investigates the impact of Shared Reading upon mental health and wellbeing in the four boroughs of Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, providing an analysis of what it is that Shared Reading does, giving qualitative and quantitative evidence that it works.

One of the reading-group members, as you will see, says that literature is not just ‘talking about’ feelings but actually ‘doing feelings’ - getting into them and re-experiencing them in another form. Shared Reading is about re-experiencing life from off the page, and as a result, being useful to the lives of its group members. It is about real doing.

Read the full report.

'A Comparative Study of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Shared Reading for Chronic Pain' (2016)

This study compared Shared Reading (SR) – a literature-based intervention developed by national charity The Reader – to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as an intervention for chronic pain sufferers.

We investigated:

1) the degree to which CBT and SR offer alternative treatment methods for alleviating the psychological symptoms of chronic pain

2) how far SR might complement CBT by providing less programmatic and potentially more long-term follow-up to CBT.

The study was conducted through a partnership between researchers from the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society at the University of Liverpool, The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, and The Reader, a nationally recognised centre for the promotion of reading and positive mental health. The project was approved by the Liverpool Central NHS Research Ethics Committee.

Read the full report.

Download a summary of the Report.

'Read to Care: An Investigation into Quality of Life Benefits of Shared Reading Groups for People Living with Dementia' (2014)

The primary aim of this project was further to investigate by both quantitative and qualitative methods the impact that engaging in a shared reading group activity (poetry group sessions) had on participants with mild to moderate dementia in four care homes across Wirral. Particular consideration is given to the uses of powerfully emotional literature to trigger awakenings in people living with dementia; the value of literature in offering emotional experiences too often feared to be 'negative'; the kind of memory that is stimulated by shared reading; and the additional effect on relatives and carers.

The conclusions and recommendations of the report show that shared reading groups significantly improve the quality of life of people living with dementia, as well as providing valuable benefit to care workers and relatives in encouragement of remaining human possibilities.

Download the full report

'Cultural Value: Assessing the intrinsic value of The Reader Organisation's Shared Reading Scheme' (Davis, P. Billington, J. Corcoran, R. Gonzalez-Diaz, V. Lampropoulou, S. Farrington, G. Magee, F. Walsh, E.,2014)

The primary aims of this project were to identify the intrinsic value components of the reading aloud shared reading model as a specific participatory and voluntary experience, in creation of both individual meaningfulness and a strongly interactive small community, and to examine the relationship of this intrinsic value to (arguably) collateral and secondary (therapeutic, health, economic, social) benefits.

The report found that the cultural value of shared reading is established on the basis of a number of factors, including the multi-layered and humanising presence of literature in relation to personal contemplation triggered in areas of experience  and meaning otherwise difficult to locate, and the formation of small-group communities in which the relation between private and public was closer than conventionally allowed.

Download the full report

'An Evaluation of a Literature-Based Intervention for People with Chronic Pain' (Billington, J. Humphreys, A-L.  McDonnell, K. Jones, A., 2014)

This study, conducted through a partnership between researchers from CRILS and Health Sciences at the University of Liverpool, The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen NHS Hospital Trust and The Reader, investigates whether shared reading as a literature-based intervention was beneficial for people with chronic pain when delivered in a clinical setting.

Positive impacts in terms of pain and psychological wellbeing were found in areas such as absorbed concentration, a sense of shared community, comradeship and friendship, mood and quality of life, offering people with complex and chronic pain conditions an alternative intervention that may help to allieviate some features of their condition, with minimum risk of side effects.

Download the full report

'An Evaluation of a Pilot Study of a Literature-Based Intervention with Women in Prison' (Robinson,J. Billington, J.,2013)

This study, conducted through a partnership between researchers from CRILS, HMP Low Newton, Durham, and The Reader, and funded by the National Personality Disorder Team (Department of Health), assesses how the benefits of Get Into Reading as a literature-based intervention transfer to a female prison.

The study found that there were four significant areas of improved wellbeing to female prisoners taking part in shared reading:

  • Social Wellbeing
  • Emotional/Psychological Wellbeing
  • Educational Wellbeing
  • Organisational Wellbeing

Download the full report

Download the summary

This report, by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, uses a social return on investment analysis (SROI) to assess the impact of Get Into Reading on the health and wellbeing of participants. The evaluation found that, for every £1 invested in Get Into Reading, a social return average of £6.47 was generated. - See more at: /what-we-do-and-why/health-wellbeing.aspx#sthash.rmjCAWHr.dpuf

‘A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia’ (Davis, P. Billington, J. Carroll, J. Healey, C. Kinderman, P., 2012)

Funded by the Headley Trust, the conclusions of this six-month study found that the literature-based intervention provided by shared reading produces a significant reduction in dementia symptoms and benefits the quality of life of both the residents and staff carers.

The quantitative and qualitative research also found that short and long-term memory was positively influenced, listening skills were improved and the provision of activity by an external organisation enhanced patient care.

Download the full report

Download the list of Reading Material used in the project

‘An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being’ (Josie Billington, Chris Dowrick, Andrew Hamer, Jude Robinson, and Clare Williams, 2010)

This one-year research study concluded that shared reading groups helped patients suffering from depression in terms of their social, mental, emotional and psychological well-being. The clinical data indicated that statistically significant improvements in the mental health of depressed patients had occurred during the 12-month period in which they had attended reading groups.

It found that there were four significant ‘mechanisms of action’ involved in the reading group intervention, three of which were essential to its success, the fourth influential:

  • A rich, varied, non-prescriptive diet of serious literature
  • The role of the group facilitator in making the literature ‘live’ in the room
  • The role of the group in offering support and a sense of community
  • The creation of stimulating, non-pressurised, non-judgemental atmosphere (‘not like school’, as one participant emphatically put it) overrode considerations of physical environment

The report also established what types of literature work, why they work and how they work in the specific context of depressive illness.

Download the executive summary

Download the full report

Current Research Projects

‘Shakespeared Brain’

This pioneering research seeks to demonstrate how challenging literature can ‘shift mental pathways’. The most recent findings of monitored brain activity in volunteers reading works by Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Eliot produced significant electrical activity in the areas of the brain connected to language, memory and emotion, compared to ‘straightforward’ translations of the text which produced less. This makes it possible to suggest that great literature may have real therapeutic value. Read about 'Shakespeared Brain' here.

Participatory Arts for Well-Being: Past and Present Practices

A collaboration between University of Liverpool, Exeter and Glamorgan in partnership with The Reader and the Young Foundation (funded by the AHRC), the study will offer analytical studies of flagship community arts practices, including shared reading, resulting in a special issue of the Journal of Arts and Communities in 2013.

A Practice-informed Study of the Theoretical Bases for Bibliotherapy

Building on the University of Liverpool’s groundbreaking MA Reading in Practice, the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award partners us with CRILS and Mersey Care NHS Trust, this pioneering project explores the existing theoretical foundations for the practice of bibliotherapy, or ‘reading as cure’, in English literature.


Reading Between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure

Download the full report here.

'An evaluation of the social value of Get Into Reading intiative in Wirral, Merseyside' (Whelan, G., 2013)

The Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University has analysed the social return on investment (SROI) for the Get Into Reading initiative in Wirral, Merseyside. When considering the impact of Shared Reading on the health and well-being of participants, the study found that for every £1 invested in Get Into Reading, an average social return of £6.47 was generated. 

Download the full report here.

Reading and Talking: Exploring the experience of taking part in reading groups at Walton Neuro-Rehabilitation Unit (Robinson, J., 2008)

Download the full report here.

Reading and Talking: Exploring the experience of taking part in reading groups at Vauxhall Health Care Centre (Robinson, J., 2008)

Download the full report here.

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