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Jenna’s Reader Story – “I’m valued for who I am”

Written by Lily Kehoe, 27th September 2023

With Libraries Week UK on the horizon, we spoke with Jenna who attends a Shared Reading group at her local library in Dorset.  

The group is one of seven Shared Reading groups that take place every week across five libraries, online and at a local mental health service thanks to The Reader’s long-standing partnership with Dorset Libraries. 

Growing up for me was difficult from a dyslexic point of view. I believed I was ‘thick’, ‘stupid’. My place in school was at the back of the class, where I was not called upon for my opinion or contribution to any of the discussions. I felt this isolation and it set me apart.   

For some reason, I have always been interested in literature and I wanted to get involved but my confidence was zero and this travelled to my body language.  My shoulders went down, along with my head and I was afraid to meet the gaze of others. 

A warm welcome 

About six months ago, I noticed a poster in the Lyme Regis Library advertising a Shared Reading group.  It spoke to me so I went along and received a warm welcome from the librarian.   

I then met the Reader Leader and group members. Levels of literacy or the ability to read were not mentioned.  I joined and found out that Shared Reading is all about getting into the story and the characters. It’s about what it means to me, how I perceive it and at last, I could voice my opinion! 

The group are encouraging and friendly.  I take turns to read aloud.  At first, I could manage about two sentences but with the cheering of others I can now go further.  My confidence has spiralled, I have combatted my fear of reading and all five foot of me stands upright and makes eye contact. 

Literature light bulbs 

I love every poem we read, the one about the snail was great.  Short paragraphs of short sentences – I can get into them quicker.  I have the confidence to look at each word, take a breath and take it in.  I don’t have to rush, I go at my own pace.  

I was intrigued by a story called The Duchess and the Jeweller by Virginia Woolf – I’d never heard of it before and it had shades of dark and light.  I also loved reading an extract from Animal Farm.  I love the way the animals have a voice.  I could relate to this, it made me feel that I can stand up for myself for what I believe in.  The novel Picnic at Hanging Rock totally absorbed me and in one story we even sang because the characters did. 

What Shared Reading does 

I like Shared Reading more than other activities I have tried because I feel that I don’t have to bring anything along with me.  I am valued for who I am. 

At first, joining the group did take me away from my comfort zone but I would encourage anybody to have a go.  It is a supportive and friendly environment where there’s no judgement.  I’m Jenna, a happy bubbly person – I wish it was Wednesday every day, that’s how it makes me feel. 

As a charity we rely on the generous support of individuals and organisations to help us change lives through Shared Reading. A donation allows us to train volunteers, provide resources for groups and help reach more people. We want to make sure everyone can attend a Shared Reading group, no matter their background, income or situation, and we'll be so grateful for your help.

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