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Linda’s Reader Story – “We’re different types of people and we’re all getting to know each other.”

Written by Lily Kehoe, 14th July 2023

Linda attends a Shared Reading group in Doncaster. Here she talks about her experiences and what she’s gained from being part of the group.


I first started going to the group through Doncaster Mind. I was struggling with my mental health, my dad had been ill and he passed away. When you feel isolated you need to do something. Doncaster Mind offered me counselling and one-to-one sessions, and told me about the Shared Reading group.

When they first mentioned it, I wasn’t sure that it was my cup of tea. I wanted to meet more people and see what was going on though, and sometimes you have to push yourself. My daughter’s the one who’s really into reading and she encouraged me to give it a try.

Starting out

I went along to a taster session and it was quite good! It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. I thought you’d go in, read something and that would be it. I was really surprised. There were a few of us there and we did a couple more tasters to see if it would work, then we started to meet every week.

In the group you go at your own pace, it’s so relaxed. You might feel a bit nervous at first with reading aloud but you plod along. It’s not ‘we’ve got this book, and we need to do it and get through it’ or ‘you have to read this amount of pages’. We meet each week for an hour and a half, and we might not always read a lot but so much comes out of it. You read something and by the time you’ve spoken about it and come out of the group, you do a full 360 on what you first thought. It opens your eyes up.

The people in the group are there each week, we’re different types of people and we’re all getting to know each other. When you’re struggling with your mental health, you become blinkered in your thinking and everything’s awful. The reading group makes you think about things from different angles, you see how each person reads a bit and can see something different in it, in how they read it.

A different light

In everyday life, you think ‘I see it from this way’, and that’s it. Doing this has made me look at it from different aspects, like ‘I never thought of it that way’. It tests your train of thought, you have to think about other people’s ways of thinking. I was surprised, I didn’t think I’d get that out of it. It makes you think, nothing’s ever black and white, is it?

We read Oliver Twist, and that really surprised me. You see the films and the books and everything, but it’s not until you read it that you realise that it’s about society. A lot of things may have been written years ago but they still resonate today, when you think about the working classes and how people can treat other people. Some things have changed but other things are still the same.

Last week we read an Emily Brontë poem, she used to write under a man’s name because everybody would judge her for being a woman writer at that time. You’d think after more than a hundred years it’d all be sorted now but people are still fighting for women’s rights, and it makes you think about that. You go in reading something, thinking you’ll just be reading and come out wanting to do something about what the world’s like!

I’m not a massive reader but I do read, and I think I’ve got a fairly good imagination. The words don’t sink in as much on your own. If I was reading at home, I’d put it to one side and not think about it much. In the group you’re discussing it, breaking it down and thinking about it a lot more, and that’s when you get so much more out of it.

It makes you realise we’re not all cut from the same cloth. You come to understand that everybody has their own process of thinking and will pick up on different things. You’ve got to be mindful of other people, and the group helps you to be like that. It’s not what I expected to get from it at all!

Something more

It was only meant to be a short term thing but when it was coming to an end everybody was really upset, we didn’t want it to stop. I’d gone from thinking, ‘what am I doing?’ to ‘I don’t want this to end!’ and now we meet every week.

I’ve gone to other groups where you’re doing things, like painting or making bath bombs. In those, you have to power through and get it done, but this is not like that. If we’ve got five pages to read and we only read one, it doesn’t matter. Our group leader will say ‘we’ve got into this bit, haven’t we, we’ll come back to it next week’. It’s just as well, because we don’t run out of things to say in our group!

To anyone who is thinking about going but isn’t sure about it, I’d say give it a go, you’ve got nothing to lose. You might get more out of it than you expected. For me it’s been a real eye opener, I love doing it.

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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