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‘It was good to have something again’

Written by Rachael Norris, 15th February 2020

Callam was recommended to try Shared Reading by his Occupational Therapist. He has attended the group for almost a year now and has recently trained to become a Reader Leader himself with the view to set up a group in his local area.


Since I was a kid, I have enjoyed reading.

I got started off with The Hobbit and I don’t think I understood many of the words at the time, but I remember crying at one of the characters dying.

That was the gateway for enjoying literature, I think.

However, I took a gap year before I went into uni. I wanted a break from college and I felt under a lot of pressure, but it messed up my routine. It was my own fault, a mistake on my part.

So when I went into uni, I wasn’t prepared for a structure again. It was very much a mess. And uni fell apart after a few months and I wasn’t going anywhere after that.

Reading, too, fell out of orbit.

I was depressed, so I eventually started on anti-depressants, then, my occupational therapist suggested that I try a Shared Reading group.

She thought it was something I would enjoy and, therefore, that it would help me stick to it.

When I got to Morrison’s, where the group was taking place, I was honestly surprised that any reading would be going on in there. But it was, and we got started.

It was relaxed and there was a good atmosphere. I don’t normally read short stories or poetry, not because I dislike them. I just never thought of it as an avenue to enjoy literature, but it has turned out to be really, really good.

Attending the group felt like a way of ‘getting out there’ again, and it is now a weekly thing for me to enjoy.

What I really like is the lack of commitment and, while that might sound weird, I think not being forced into a mindset of ‘you have to complete this’ is so helpful.

When you go to college, you go because you have to, but Shared Reading comes with freedom. While I enjoy it and go to every session, theoretically I know I don’t have to. It takes a load off my mind – I guess it’s a psychological thing.

I’m not 100 per cent sure how to describe it. It’s as if you can let your guard down.

In the same way, there’s not much pressure on the socialising aspect, because when you go there, you go to enjoy other people’s company through the literature.

You enjoy literature and through that you socialise. It’s a double thing.

When you read something that sparks different interpretations, next time, you automatically start to think about what other people might think about the story and how it could be seen through other people’s eyes.

It’s about valuing other people’s perspectives and I think that’s important in all areas of life really, not just reading.

A few months ago, I trained to become a Reader Leader myself. I felt excited and a bit jittery at the same time, but the training was really good and comprehensive.

A part of me would like more, not because I need more but because it was so enjoyable.

I realised how many people are taking part in this ‘reading revolution’, and it made me proud that I am now part of it too.

As a volunteer, it means a lot that you can take it at whatever pace you’re comfortable with.

I would like to co-lead with another Reader Leader for a little while, and then I can’t wait to dive into it and start my own group in the community.

Shared Reading has given me back both structure and feeling.

When I was in a bad place mentally, I was very ambivalent and neutral to everything. But Shared Reading helped reignite my passion for things, especially reading. It was good to have something again which I felt meant something to me.

Everyone should have somewhere they can go to relax, de-stress and meet people without it being forced on you. For me Shared Reading is that place and that’s why I wanted to become a Reader Leader myself.

I’ve experienced that the group can make a difference and I have felt how important it was for me to be a member.

I want to pass that feeling on to someone else who needs it.

If you'd like to find out about volunteering with The Reader in your local area, fill out the form on this page get started. 

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