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“It Has Become My One Opening To The World” – Peter’s Story

Written by Rachael Norris, 16th December 2020

Peter has been attending a Shared Reading group in his local library for two years. Here is what he says about the impact of Shared Reading and how he has made use of The Reader’s alternative provision during lockdown.

I first became aware of Shared Reading when I saw an advert in a local magazine. The local library was threatened with closure by the Community Interest Company set up to offload the expense from the local council.

People tried to keep the local library open by setting up new initiatives, and one of them was a weekly Shared Reading group. Because it took place on a Thursday when I do not volunteer or work, I thought I’d go along.

I was intrigued by the first two meetings. It opened areas of literature which I don’t normally come across. I tend to read non-fiction, but this was something new and I could feel myself getting excited. I’ve been going to that group for fully two years.

With the lockdown happening, I lost my weekly Shared Reading group and my different volunteering roles overnight. However, our Reader Leader let me know about The Reader’s alternative provision and I joined an online Shared Reading group via Zoom. It has become my one opening to the world.

During the lockdown, I have had very limited contact with other human beings. You have no idea how valuable these online Friday sessions have been to me.

After our weekly online group, I phone one of the group members from my library Shared Reading group. She doesn’t have a computer, so I phone her and read the same poem to her, which we have read in the online group. It has had a huge impact on me. Much more than you’d expect. I also send the poems to some former colleagues in China.

I have found the online group to be very, very good. It has introduced me to Zoom, which I wouldn’t otherwise use. Shared Reading, whether physical or online, does two things for me:

Firstly, there’s the emotional impact. Once I was reduced to tears. We read a small extract about a person having been injured and died because of a mistake, and that just totally got to me.

When I was in the forces, we got big casualties, and once I was the one who made the mistake which caused the casualties. And the text brought that back. I stopped and just went to bits. Now, that emotional effect is fantastic because it brought back something, I had suppressed for 40 years, and it felt safe to finally get it out in the group.

Secondly, you meet different people through the literature and in the group and they help you see things differently.

Essentially, Shared Reading is like entering a big house and together you start opening different doors, and by going into each and every room you learn so many new things within just an hour. It’s a fantastic experience.

Find out how you can get involved with The Reader at Home, and access Shared Reading online.

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