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From Book Break to Read to Lead: Jane’s Story

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 27th November 2013

Last year, we featured the story of one of our shared reading group members in London, and how shared reading provided her with a 'lifeboat'.  Jane, a regular reader in Kensington and Chelsea, joined us for our National Conference 2012 to give her perspective on how being part of a group made a difference to her life. More than a year on, we follow up her story as she embarks on the next step in her journey - becoming a shared reading practitioner.

Jane spoke to Megg Hewlett, one of our London Project Workers, about how far she has come:

Jane reading to an attentive audience at Baby Rhyme Time, Brompton Library

Jane reading to an attentive audience at Baby Rhyme Time, Brompton Library

For the last two years Book Break shared reading group member Jane has been volunteering at Brompton Library delivering their Baby Rhyme Time sessions on a Monday afternoon to between 30 and 50 people. It’s impossible not to be astonished by the gathering of littlies and their caregivers - mums, dads, grandparents and nannies – who gather for the session. Even the adults join in, delighting in the singing and actions that make up the half hour programme and the library vibrates with the sound of adult and children’s singing voices and laughter.

Four years ago Jane joined Book Break at Brompton Library. At the time, health difficulties had made her life a struggle. She loved her profession and working with children especially but after more than 20 years in early childhood education, a combination of factors meant she was could not work and her sense of loss was great. “Books and children had always played a huge part in my life and my work and my belief in myself was crushed.”

Jane attended Book Break every week. After a couple of years I spoke to Jane about the idea of volunteering in the library to do Baby Rhyme Time. Initially she thought there would be no way she could do it, but eventually after thinking it over she thought that maybe it was a possibility, after all, and she has been running the sessions ever since, spurred on by the personal benefits she found through shared reading.

“The confidence I found in Book Break was the thing that made me feel I could do the Baby Rhyme Time in the library. Even though attending Book Break and reading aloud in the group had boosted my confidence I was still very anxious and worried. It was a big thing to say ‘yes’ as I was still not feeling good about myself.

Once I started doing Baby Rhyme Time in the library, giving something to others made me feel much better about myself. And now, even if I do feel rubbish, I still can do it; the music is a bridge from me to the children. At the beginning of the year I moved to the other side of London so it’s quite a long journey to get here but I don’t want to stop; I enjoy it so much and the parents tell me they really appreciate it, they often thank me and it gives me a boost knowing they enjoy it and that I’m making a real contribution to other peoples lives. If I had not come to Book Break I would not be doing this now.”

Jane also volunteers at a Salvation Army lunch club for older people and each week takes the poems from Book Break to read with those people at the club who are interested. ‘This made me think what would it take for me to run my own group for older people? They seem to get so much out of it too.’

Jane found out about Read To Lead and decided to apply to attend with a view to leading her own shared reading group.

‘It was scary applying as I thought maybe I might not be good enough or it might only be for people with a degree. I spoke to a few people who encouraged me and I applied. On the day I was very nervous but I soon felt ok. I felt there was a Jane sized space for me and I thought “this is it, I’m alright here”.

Jane reading aloud at the children's rhyme session at Brompton Library

Jane reading aloud at the children's rhyme session at Brompton Library

At the moment Jane is still running her Baby Rhyme Time group at Brompton Library every week as well as reading poems with older folk at the lunch club. However her latest big enterprise is a new group in Hoxton for children aged under five and their carers called Tots and Co. Needless to say this new group will involve lots of wonderful books and stories read aloud. Jane’s story is a testament to how the power of reading and being a part of a shared reading group can have far-reaching impacts and provide not only a way back in a life that may be lost but bring a whole new direction and sense of achievement too.

Jane's remarkable story is just one example of many of how sharing reading can affect an individual's life, in a small or significant way. Take a look at our collection of Reader Stories on our website to see the various stories that have emerged within our readers:

Interested in Reading With Us in London? You'll find a full list of our open groups in the area, as well as across the UK on our group map:

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