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London volunteer honoured by the Queen for services to the community

Written by Rachael Norris, 30th January 2020

A long serving volunteer Reader Leader has been recognised in The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.  

Kate Fulton, a former media lawyer who gave up her career in 2005 to concentrate on voluntary work,  has been awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) for services to the community in the London Borough of Barnet.  

Kate’s story with The Reader began in 2011 when she sat in on a group at health and social care organisation, Jewish Care. Following the session, Kate enrolled on The Reader’s transformative training programme, Read to Lead, before becoming a fully-fledged Reader Leader in 2016.  

Shared Reading in Barnet 

Thanks to Kate’s dedication and leadership, the Reading Revolution in Barnet has now grown to 25 groups, which are led by around 30 dedicated volunteers.  

The weekly groups take place in care homescommunity centres, libraries and hospitals. One group in a Golders Green care home, made up of Holocaust Survivors and led by Kate, was featured in the book The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud by US author and children’s literature critic, Meghan Cox Gurdon last year 

Talking about why she volunteers with The Reader, Kate says: “Shared Reading is about discovering literature together. Myself, and the other volunteers, ask questions, we listen, discuss how it makes people feel, memories it evokes, and talk about what they think the author or poet is trying to say. 

“Once we were reading a poem when a lady who’d never contributed before suddenly pointed out that the poem was actually a song. She agreed to sing it for us and then told us she hadn’t heard it since she was evacuated during the war. 

“Afterwards she said to me she felt like she had just got back some of her childhood. It was an incredible moment and such a privilege to be part of it.”  

Making an impact 

In her role as a Reader Leader, Kate has successfully launched a number of new initiatives, including a monthly support meeting for North London volunteers and new groups in John Lewis stores in Brent Cross and Westfield.  

Recent feedback gathered from the John Lewis Shared Reading groups highlights the difference that it makes to people in the local area:  

“Personally, I find coming to Shared Reading very beneficial.  I do not have many family and friends.  It is nice to meet others and reading has given me enjoyment. Reading aloud has given me confidence. We discuss book content and listen to one another.” 

“I bless the day I found this reading group.  It is fantastic, inspiring and the chance to meet lovely people from all backgrounds is a bonus.  I look forward from one Monday to the next. I thoroughly admire the volunteers and all the voluntary work they put in.  Thank you to everyone.” 

Some of the volunteers who run Shared Reading groups that Kate supports in Barnet are full of praise for her achievement and her enthusiasm for what she does, saying 

“I was looking through the New Year’s Honours and thinking we must put Kate forward for an award. Very glad it’s happened! 

“You overcome every obstacle and make Shared Reading truly shared. I hope you will always look at our congratulations and know that they are true and heartfelt at all times. 

As well as volunteering with The Reader, Kate also created a monthly audio magazine and audiobooks for the blind and helps produce a monthly community radio podcast called The Jewish Views. She is also a trustee on the Boards of Finchley Primary School Trust and the charity, Resource.

If you’d like to make your story part of ours by volunteering with The Reader – just like Kate – email us for more details at volunteer@thereader.org.uk. 

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