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Launching The Reader’s first Shared Reading Community Anthology

Written by Kirsty Styles, 2nd May 2019

More than 1,500 Readers took the time to tell us about their Shared Reading experience during Feedback Week 2019 across community, dementia care homes and mental health support groups.

Across all of these kinds of places, Readers told us that they have made new friends, found new things to think about and that it has changed their week. And we’re delighted to hear that.

Here’s an idea of just how far the Reading Revolution has travelled.

In further comments, Readers said: “I do not feel so alone”, “it has restored my confidence in both myself and others” and “it is an oasis in the week - a constant”.

As part of this effort, 10 Shared Reading groups were chosen to receive a tea party and a printed copy of the new Shared Reading Community Anthology 2019, which you can download for yourself here.

In a letter to them, The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis said: “Sit. Feast on your life,” quoting Derek Walcott’s Love After Love.

Those winning groups were:

  • Beechcroft Care Home
  • A Category-B Men's Prison       
  • Croydon Central Library
  • Folkestone Age UK
  • A High-security Prison 
  • HMP Magilligan
  • Kirk Lodge
  • QUBE
  • Woodchurch High Group

Helen Willows, who leads her Shared Reading group at Qube – Oswestry Community Action, said:

“We received our tea party in a box on Saturday and have had it today! We were 7, and everyone appreciated the cake and tea, the anthology and Jane’s lovely letter.

“The pottery we used I ‘inherited’ from my mum, who would have been 94 today. It’s Portmeirion pottery, which raised a lot of memories about walks there, plans to go there over Easter weekend and a discussion of the light and views - and then a general discussion about china and tea services.

“The main message was a feeling of real appreciation by the group members: ‘how KIND of them to think of us!’; ‘it gives me a warm feeling to know that lots of others across the country are also doing this’; ‘what a lovely letter from Jane - how nice of her to do that’.

“And they were DELIGHTED to receive the anthology : 'look! There’s poems in here that we’ve read in this group’, ‘look - it tells you where the group is that’s contributed that story’.

“In truth it has been a very special afternoon. Full of laughter and memories. Thank you so much. A great afternoon to end just before Easter.”

Pauline McNeil, who leads her Shared Reading group at Beechcroft Retirement Unit Maghull, Merseyside said:

“The group were really delighted to receive the letter from Jane Davies and the wonderful tea party hamper. Our group feasted on the cake, tea, biscuits and the Community Anthology. Food for the body and the spirit!

“The Shared Reading group in an important part of the Beechcroft social scene with an opportunity for members to share great literature, memories and connect in a welcoming environment.

“Beechcroft feel proud to part of the Reading Revolution that is sweeping the country and appreciate the great work of The Reader in bringing uplifting literature to so many people.

“The group enjoyed reading ‘The Voyage’ by Katherine Mansfield, ‘Thaw’ by Edward Thomas and were pleased to receive their own copies of the Community Anthology, which they intend to share with friends and family.

"The short story gave the group much to think about and discuss. The group talked about how their own experiences intersected with the literature. One member had actually travelled to Picton New Zealand and shared her journey with the group. One who had been a Wren in the Royal Navy also had a connection with the prose. The journey of young Fenella also evoked memories for another who recalled travelling to Cappadocia.

“The themes of loss and resilience in the text also brought new things to share in the group. Two members regaled the group with funny stories about how loss was dealt with by neighbouring families in the past.

"Another remembered her grandparents and reflected with the group how dress and practices have changed so much over the years. The flavour hat the different voices give to the story when reading aloud added something special, which the group felt it really helped them to connect with their own thoughts and understand each other better.

"The morning was a celebration of great literature, good company, humour, reflection and a lovely tea party. As one member stated 'The Shared Reading session is a really good start to our week!'."


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