2022 Highlights from the Reading Revolution
As 2022 is rapidly coming to a close, we’re taking a few moments to pause, reflect and look back on what has been another busy year for the Reading Revolution.
‘It’s meant a great deal to me, I feel I have come out of my shell, I never used to like reading out or giving any thoughts about books…but I have gained so much more confidence and understanding of reading. It was warm and friendly and made reading more fun.’
These are just some of our highlights from the last twelve months. We know that so many ‘wow’ moments happen week after week in Shared Reading groups and activities all around the UK, as well as beyond, that are far too many to list in one post!
Celebrating our Readers and Volunteers
After two years of mainly meeting over screens or on the phone, we were delighted to get back out on the road and meet hundreds of volunteers face to face in our Celebrate with The Reader events across the country over the spring, summer and autumn. It was wonderful to get the chance to connect with so many of our hardworking and dedicated volunteers, read together, hear what is most important to you and celebrate your many achievements. These events felt like a real turning point in rebuilding our Reading Revolution, and we’d like to thank those who made the trip to come out and see us.
We had a fantastic Volunteers’ Week 2022 in June with several special events which gave us A Time to Say Thanks. Over four events both online and at the Mansion House at Calderstones, we really enjoyed getting together and reading with lots of volunteers and with The Reader’s Founder and Director, Jane Davis.
In-person celebrations continued throughout the summer for volunteers at our HQ at Calderstones, and our wonderful Children and Young People volunteers who stepped up to help out with our Storybarn outdoor Story Trails.
Throughout the year we’ve heard about the amazing work of many of our volunteers, which have included ten-year anniversaries of being a Reader Leader and those going above and beyond to bring the benefits of Shared Reading to so many people in their communities.
Of course, a highlight of any year at The Reader involves all of the great literature we share and the different ways in which we do so. In 2022, we’ve been able to dive into so many stories, books and poems: some that are brand new, some old favourites that we’ve revisited from a new perspective.
In May, we launched The Reader Bookshelf 2022-23, with the theme of ‘Light and Darkness’. The texts on both our Adult and Children and Young People Bookshelf have given us so much to think about. If you'd like to explore the Bookshelf and haven't yet then our spotlight pieces are a great way to take a closer look.
We’ve been able to come together to connect with an incredible range of literature throughout the last twelve months at a number of events, including spending An Afternoon with Simon Armitage in January, showcasing Shared Reading as part of the first Liverpool Against Racism Festival in April and fusing great books and novels with intimate conversations about life’s ups and downs at the second Gravity Festival at the Mansion House at Calderstones at the end of September and beginning of October.
Alongside hearing all about groups that run regularly, there have been some special reading experiences we’ve loved taking a closer look at, including Ghada and her group’s trip to Kensington Palace and Neelam’s celebration of Black History Month with the Black Minority and Ethnic Forum in Croydon.
The Reader’s Publications team have been busier than ever during 2022, creating several new anthologies which are available for volunteers to download on the Online Community Hub. From works from black writers which help us to understand the part that we can play to end racism in the world, to exploring reading through the experiences of grief and loss, these anthologies have played a big part in enriching practice over the last few months.
Two more issues of The Reader Magazine hit letterboxes and bookshelves across the country this year. Issue 75 explored the huge question of ‘Why do we read?’, with the help of writer Tomiwa Owolade, and with Josh Cohen, psychotherapist and author of How to Live. What To Do. Issue 76 put the spotlight on childhood: on literature that draws out its strangeness and possibilities, and on The Reader’s work with children and young people which harnesses a sense of fun and the power of reading aloud to make brilliant books available to all, with SF Said, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Lucy Mangan.
Our Featured Poems have been a staple throughout the year. Why not take some time to sit back, listen and take a trip through the centuries, as well as the months of this year?
Reasons to celebrate
At the beginning of March, The Reader won the Outstanding Contribution to Culture Award at Liverpool City Region’s Culture and Creativity Awards 2021. The award was decided by a public vote, and we were up against some really impressive organisations, so there was no doubt that our volunteers and supporters helped us to scoop the prize.
Another big thing to celebrate was the Garden Theatre at Calderstones coming back to life over the summer, with incredible events by Shakespeare’s Globe, who brought us their production of Julius Caesar, The HandleBards and Sounds in the Park.
Looking at what we do, and things that are new
Feedback Week 2022 took place in the spring; after a period of change and transformation, we were so grateful to hear about so many of our volunteer's thoughts and experiences. There was a sense of achievement, confidence and helping others to feel connected.
It’s been great to get several opportunities this year to remind ourselves of the real benefits that Shared Reading can have on people who need it most. Research conducted earlier this year shows how much groups can help to positively support the mental health of readers. More recent research shows how Shared Reading is improving well-being and delivering positive change for individuals in criminal justice settings across the UK.
This year we’ve made great headway in our Making Meaning at Calderstones project, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Several new volunteer roles have been created at the Mansion House at Calderstones that are vital in helping us to uncover and tell the stories of Calderstones as a significant place of meaning-making, including our Diverse Connections group who have been digging deep into the Maritime history of the Grade II listed Mansion House.
Hearing Reader Stories and Voices
During 2022, we’ve heard from more of our Readers who have shared their stories about what Shared Reading and being part of the Reading Revolution means to them.
Stuart talks about what being part of a Shared Reading group for over 10 years has done for him:
“I’ve learned to be myself in the group. I’ve got a clear idea of who I am, what I can do, what I hope to do, instead of having this appallingly negative image of myself.”
During Loneliness Awareness Week in June, Helen told us how Shared Reading has made a positive impact on her life while living with chronic pain:
“I’d lost some friends because people just didn’t know what to say and so the thought of going along to a group with other people who understood what I was going through was very appealing. I had also found that reading helped with the pain – it didn’t take it away but while I was reading I could disappear into a book – the book became my focus, not the pain.”
Our most recent Reader Story comes from Waldo, who talks about how Shared Reading has helped him during times of struggling with his mental health:
“It makes you think, ‘I’m not different, I’m not alone’ and there’s a shared connection. When I was reading ‘Of Mice and Men’ with one group, it struck me that it’s not so much about the book but about the conversations that take place because of what those lines mean to people.”
These Reader Stories are a real highlight, showcasing our wonderful and diverse community of Readers.
“The Reader has saved my life. When I was made redundant I sunk very low but preparing for my Shared Reading session really kept me going.”
What a year it has been! We’d like to say a big thank you to each and every one of you who has supported us throughout 2022, as you were the ones who made it as memorable as it was. We hope you get the chance to reflect and unwind ahead of the holiday season and the new year that is around the corner.
The end of the calendar year is often a busy time, but also a time where we reflect on what…
We're continuing to delve into the Children and Young People's Reader Bookshelf with a review of Anthony McGowan's series Brock (2013),…
This Christmas, we're calling for donations to help us reach a £10,000 festive fundraising target. Funds raised will support the…
Contact usGet in touch and be part of the story
You can also speak to us on: 0151 729 2200