The Reader’s founder, Jane Davis MBE, left school at 16 with two GCSEs.
She eventually returned to education as a young, single mother and got a first-class degree, then a PhD, from the School of English at the University of Liverpool.
Jane spent 15 years working as an English teacher at the university and it was in her Continuing Education classes that she started to develop the model we now call Shared Reading.
Using literature for personal reflection was at the heart of The Reader magazine, which launched in 1997, as Jane’s first attempt to get the idea out into the world.
The first Shared Reading group (known as Get Into Reading) happened in Birkenhead in 2002, in The Reader’s first partnership, with Wirral Libraries, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
In 2007, The Reader won its first NHS commission, as Reader in Residence with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.
In January, 2008, The Reader was the subject of an article by author Blake Morrison in The Guardian and The Reading Cure was later syndicated around the world. This piece created a long wave of interest in Shared Reading and, as a response, our flagship training course, Read to Lead, was developed. Later that year, The Reader became the first arts ‘spin-out’ from the University of Liverpool, setting up as an independent charity.
Projects in London launched two years later, alongside international Shared Reading, beginning in Denmark. Over the next decade, thousands of people from around the world have become part of the Shared Reading movement.
In 2014, The Reader signed a 125-year lease for the semi-derelict Mansion House in Calderstones Park. Shortly afterwards, work began on converting the barn and stable block, into The Reader Storybarn, an imaginative play space for children, and the Ice Cream Parlour.
In 2017, backed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Liverpool City Council, work began on a multi-million pound refurbishment to the Grade-II listed Mansion, including the conservation and rehousing of the ancient Calder Stones, which give the park its name.
The Mansion House is the focal point of a warm and connected community of readers at Calderstones and home to the International Centre for Shared Reading.
As well as weekly, free Shared Reading, there are cultural events, and art, heritage and wellbeing activities. The Reader at Calderstones offers something for everyone.
Jane Davis, Founder and Director of The Reader, explains: “What makes people happy, above all, is a network of supportive fellow creatures, a sense of purpose, challenge and meaningful occupation.
“Shared Reading can provide all this, but we know that many of the people we reach need more than a couple of hours Shared Reading each week. Even for the most obsessive readers, life is not only books and reading: we need other creative and happiness-inducing activities.
“This is why we have created The Reader at Calderstones – a place open to all and full of possibilities, all held together by a golden thread of literature.”