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East Coast Bays: Shared Reading in an Additional Language

Written by Francesca Dolan, 7th September 2021

Kate Middleton is the Manager and Volunteer Coordinator of The Reading Revolution in New Zealand. After taking part in Read to Lead in Liverpool in 2015, Kate brought Shared Reading back to New Zealand – as well as running several groups, she delivers Read to Lead training to recruit Reader Leaders, spreading the benefits of Shared Reading across New Zealand.

Here, Kate gives us a insight into how Shared Reading is helping to bring together communities and connect different cultures with one another in Auckland.

‘Not forward, not backward, some sideward'

It is said Learning is part of life, and it is truly ongoing all of my life. Since I am living here, learning English just like doing exercise to keep oneself fit. But no matter how much one makes the effort, the ageing clock still keeps ticking. Same as learning new tricks for an old dog, I have learned a lot of words, idioms, etc, but I can’t retain all of what I have learned. There might be a little hole somewhere on the brain tank!

I’m not expecting much English improvement at my age. I just hope my English level is not like a ball, rolling and dropping downhill toward the horizon too soon. However, yes, Reading Revolution does help in many regards, especially for helping me look into the variety of life and opening my vision by understanding the people who are not in my narrow span of life experience.

I love reading. Joining the group doesn’t mean replacing any other activity, or altering daily life; I just squeeze it in – easily, no doubt as natural as breathing.” – Shared Reading participant since 2018.

 

In Auckland City 28% of the population are Asian with Chinese people as the highest percentage. Many new migrants or people learning English may feel isolated or shy in social situations. The Kiwi accent is also hard for many people to understand as it’s pretty kooky!

Since 2018 our wonderful volunteers Jody, Dawn and Gaylene have been running a Shared Reading group at East Coast Bays library with a predominantly Chinese and Korean community of mixed ages and genders. There are also Russian, Taiwanese and other cultures within the group. The fabulous Jane and Cameron have also started a similar group at Albany Village library. English is an additional language for these group members and we were curious to know if they felt like Shared Reading helped them with aspects of their English language. In these groups the story is emailed a week before the session so that participants can do any translation work ahead of time. Some participants study English outside the group, some don’t but all have formally studied in the past. Some group members have been in NZ only a couple of years, some older people for 25 years!


When we asked for feedback the group universally agreed that they found Shared Reading really useful and motivating because the activity is so enjoyable! People were motivated to read the story beforehand and figure out any tricky bits so that they could really enjoy the rich discussion on the day. All reported that their vocabulary and fluency had improved.

 

“Every story gives me motivation to learn English more because I want to enjoy the story without a dictionary- I’m not there yet!”

 

“For me I misunderstand some things when I prepare but in the group I know more. I love hearing everyone’s thoughts!”

 

Participants really enjoy the variety and surprise of not knowing what the Reader Leader will pick each week because it gets them out of their comfort zone. They also enjoy the rich layered texture of the stories – lots to think about!

“Modern stories are easier but I love that sometimes it’s Victorian or Science Fiction- I would never choose these things!”

“I love looking at the different stories within the story & analysing the plots. Weaving together different themes the story today had three kinds of lives interwoven, the people, the animals and the seasons.”

“I love the stories the leaders choose- when I go to the library I don’t know what to choose!”

Finally, as in other Shared Reading groups, the regularity of the weekly routine is also beneficial to learning. No surprises there! It’s easier for us to learn together motivated by fun than learning alone!

“The routine of the story every week keeps me motivated and reading regularly”

“I would not read as much without the group. I don’t finish books by myself!”

It’s wonderful to hear of how Shared Reading is taking off on the other side of the world, and here’s to the groups going from strength to strength.

For more on The Reading Revolution, check out the website: https://thereadingrevolution.org/

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