Lincolnshire volunteer wins share of £46,000 to train six new Shared Reading group leaders

Thriving Boston Shared Reading community led by dedicated volunteer gets opportunity to build a reading revolution with more volunteers reading aloud

The Reader has launched a call for new volunteers to read aloud together in the Lincolnshire community thanks to the hard work of local volunteer organiser, Jenni Robbs.

Boston currently has two Shared Reading groups, one in the Cotton Chapel at St.Botolph’s Church (Boston Stump), which has been running for a year, and one at Boston Library, which is coming up to its fourth anniversary. 

Jenni has won a share of £46,000 of Big Give donations made to The Reader, which will be used to train six new Reader Leaders to launch and lead Shared Reading groups in her local community.

Alongside this new call for community volunteers, HMP North Sea Camp is launching the county’s first Shared Reading group in the criminal justice system in February.

The Reader has worked in the criminal justice system for over a decade, and today supports Shared Reading in more than 40 prisons and probation hostels. Jenni has been working to roll out an opportunity for local migrant workers to join Shared Reading groups, in order to help build local connections.

Leaving problems at the door

One longstanding Boston group member said: “For me, Shared Reading is the time to leave problems, worries and illness for an hour or so and just be ‘me’.  For people who lack friendship, these groups may be of even greater importance.

“When I first joined, I was concerned about reading aloud as I had not done this for so long. You can say you prefer to listen and there are no questions asked, but everything is so relaxed that I am happy to read without even thinking about it.

“I find it uplifting to concentrate solely on a text, and old or new poems. Debate is fun and I have gained so much confidence in myself and read a lot more now, all initiated by my involvement in the group, which I hope will continue for many years to come.

“I would never have sought out or had any idea that Shared Reading existed and may well have missed out. I hope that more groups are available to more and more people in the future.”

Adam Kelk, Head Verger for The Parish of Boston, said:  “We are delighted that St Botolph’s has been able to host Shared Reading sessions. Shared Reading is a brilliant way for people to come together and share fellowship with each other.

“We are glad the group is going from strength to strength and we will support it however we can in the future. At St Botolph’s, we are community minded and are willing to help in any way which can help enhance our town, this group is part of our community.”

Community service

Alison Wade from GLL, a social enterprise that runs the local library, said: “The Shared Reading group, which has been meeting at Boston Library for nearly four years, provides a very important service to the community. That’s not only by encouraging a love of reading of all types of literature, but also fulfilling a vital social role by offering an opportunity for local people to meet up to share their thoughts and interests.”

Jane Davis, founder and director of The Reader, said: “We’re so very grateful to everyone who donated to our Big Give campaign, enabling us to do more of what matters in London, Liverpool and, now, Lincolnshire.

“It’s volunteers like Jenni that are creating the future of The Reader, we’re delighted at the thought of more community groups in Lincolnshire. Well done.”

Late last year, The Reader hit a major milestone with the news that it is now supporting 500 Shared Reading groups to happen across the UK every single week.

If you would like to register your interest in training to become a Reader Leader, find out how to join a group, or would like to become involved as a partner in this community collaboration, email volunteer@thereader.org.uk.

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Outnumbered star Claire Skinner lends her voice to the campaign for reading aloud together

Actor joins The Reader on stage at historic Toynbee Hall to help make the call for a Reading Revolution in 2019

 Local people urged to make Shared Reading ‘the thing’ they do this year – as NHS 10-year plan brings focus to staying healthy and ageing well

National charity, The Reader, is using the New Year to make a call for people across London to join the ‘Reading Revolution’.

Actor Claire Skinner will join The Reader’s founder Jane Davis and local Readers at an event on Thursday 17 January to read aloud something that says ‘revolution’ to her at the historic anti-poverty charity Toynbee Hall. The public are invited to lend their support too.

For more than a decade, The Reader has been reading aloud in prisons, care homes and the community. Research from the University of Liverpool has shown that Shared Reading groups can improve wellbeing, reduce social isolation and build stronger communities.

With almost 100 Shared Reading groups in London – in Barnet, Croydon, Hammersmith and Fulham, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton and Barnes, and Kensington and Chelsea – The Reader has thriving hubs across the capital led by dedicated volunteers committed to improving people’s lives through this highly impactful practice.

Claire Skinner said: “This is the time of year when many of us are looking to try something new or make improvements to our health and wellbeing, and getting together to share in the joy of a great novel or poem is a way for all of us – regardless of age, background or life situation – to feel positive. If you’ve not tried it before, make 2019 the year you give it a go!”

“The new NHS strategy highlights the need for people to stay healthy and age well,” said The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis.

“At The Reader, we believe a reading revolution that helps people come together, around great literature, to talk, laugh and share is a simple way to prevent people falling into crisis, or help them out when they can’t see a way forward. We’re thankful for our army of volunteers who help us do just that – and we urge those that can to think about joining us in London, whether as advocates, volunteers or supporters.”

Suvi Dogra, who runs her weekly Shared Reading group in West London, explained: “Group members often tell me how much they love being a part of something that gives them a sense of belonging, no matter where they come from. Reading aloud and reading together shows the power of communication and language, while unraveling the mysteries of literature. Watching this self-discovery unfold in my readers is where true magic dwells, making it the most rewarding experience of my life.”

Last year, The Reader hit a major milestone with the news that it is now supporting 500 Shared Reading groups across the UK every single week. With support from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and others, more than 1,000 volunteers now read in prisons, care homes and community spaces.

Groups are free and open to all, normally last an hour or an hour and a half, and run every week in local community spaces. As one local group member said: “The reading groups are a different kind of medicine and it’s through them that I’ve found a way back to life”.

Everyone who leads a Shared Reading group experiences The Reader’s transformative Read to Lead training and can go on to start new groups in places like sheltered housing or care homes.

To get involved with The Reader, email: volunteer@thereader.org.uk.

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Birkenhead will host UK’s first community Shared Reading Space

Home of The Reader’s first Shared Reading group, launched over a decade ago, now hosts the charity’s next innovation for creating a reading revolution

 Local people urged to make Shared Reading ‘the thing’ they do in 2019 – particularly as NHS 10-year plan focuses on staying healthy and ageing well

The Reader, a national charity founded in Birkenhead, is using the New Year to launch its latest innovation – a new Shared Reading Space at Birkenhead Central Library opening on 22 January at 1pm where reading revolutionaries can create supportive communities around great literature. Sign up to attend here.

Wirral is the oldest Shared Reading Community in the UK, as the place where The Reader’s founder Jane Davis launched her first group more than a decade ago. The new Shared Reading Space launch, in partnership with Wirral Libraries, will also mark the start of the rollout of The Reader’s new brand identity.

Testament to the power of reading aloud together, the area’s Shakespeare Shared Reading Group has been meeting to read and discuss the words of the nation’s favourite playwright every Monday since 2008.

“The most important thing is that people can talk about their own feelings and lives,” explains Alison Walters, who leads the Shakespeare group. “It’s wonderful that the group has formed such a community.

“We do sometimes hear of people thinking they might not like Shakespeare. But it was one of our longstanding Readers who initially said ‘oh I’ll come and give it a try but I’m not really sure I’m going to like it’. They have really embraced it and now even suggest the plays we read next. They’ve also brought a family member along who absolutely loves it too!”

Alison first joined The Reader as part of a community production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale performed in 2008 in front of 1,500 local people in Birkenhead Park.

Wirral currently has 25 groups running, from Birkenhead to West Kirby. Most are open to the public, while some are specifically for people living with dementia or people in the probation service. Volunteers here are working to open the Shared Reading Space at Birkenhead Central Library on 22 January so Readers, Reader Leaders and keen local people can start to build a revolutionary reading community outside of weekly groups.

As ever, groups are free and open to all, normally last an hour or an hour and a half, and run every week in local community spaces.

Research from the University of Liverpool has shown that Shared Reading groups can improve wellbeing, reduce social isolation and build stronger, more supportive communities. As one local group member said: “The reading groups are a different kind of medicine and it’s through them that I’ve found a way back to life”.

Late last year, The Reader hit a major milestone with the news that it is now supporting 500 Shared Reading groups to happen across the UK every single week. With support from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, more than 1,000 volunteers now read in prisons, care homes and community spaces, with over 200 of those groups taking place in the North West.

The Reader’s work in Wirral is also backed by Wirral Public Health, which has recently committed to the long term provision of Shared Reading as an essential service for residents. Julie Webster, acting director for public health and wellbeing at Wirral Council, said: “We are constantly looking for opportunities to promote health and wellbeing. I am very pleased that we have developed our relationship with The Reader to promote the power of Shared Reading to local people.

“The feedback we’ve had from residents taking part in Reader sessions is very powerful and goes well beyond attendance at reading groups to feeling more in control of their lives and learning new skills.”

“We know loneliness is now considered an important public health problem by government and the new 10-year NHS strategy emphasises the need to ‘stay healthy’ and ‘age well’” said The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis.

“At The Reader, we believe a reading revolution that helps people come together, around great literature, to talk, laugh and share is a simple way to create healthy communities. We urge those that can to think about joining or leading a Shared Reading group in Birkenhead, Wirral and beyond.”

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Reader Project Story: Shared Reading at Toxteth Library, Liverpool

Funded by Big Lottery Fund and Liverpool CCG, 2009 – 2015

The Reader provided a full-time Reader-in-Residence based at Toxteth Library in Liverpool, focusing on building community through Shared Reading groups.

The Reader-in-Residence set up various long and short-term weekly Shared Reading groups in a variety of local settings as well as in the library. These groups operate within the Toxteth boundary (L8), plus other non-regular reader development activities run in the area.

As part of the project, we read with people living with physical health problems, mental health problems including people with dementia, homeless people and unpaid carers, and people from a varied range of different cultural backgrounds. Group members at Toxteth reported increased self-confidence and self-esteem.

“Without the sense of worth and well-being I have received from being a group member I don’t think I could ever have gone back to work. I’ve been unemployed for nearly five years and have suffered with depression for longer than that so I know first-hand the power that these groups have to change someone’s life”

Shared Reading group member, Toxteth Library.

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