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Patrick’s Reader Story – “It creates a bond between residents and staff”

Written by Maisie Jeynes, 8th December 2022

Patrick runs a Shared Reading group with residents in a care home. Here, he talks about the ways Shared Reading can create a real connection between staff and residents.

I’ve been working in care services since 2006, running activities for residents. A few years ago, two volunteers from The Reader came along to read some poetry aloud with the residents. They were really good at engaging the residents and opening up conversations about the poetry. They took their time, showed patience, and kept the session flowing.

The Shared Reading session was rich and meaningful, and accessible to all – even those who only wanted to listen. I knew we’d found something special. Lots of the other activities we do, like baking or crafts, can take a lot of organising and need to be risk assessed. The great thing about Shared Reading is that it can be carried out wherever the residents are. We can bring the reading to them and don’t have to ask them to move from their comfortable environment. When the weather’s warm we can even read outside.

At first, one resident said ‘I don’t like poetry’, so I suggested that she just came along for the company. She’s been part of the group ever since. The residents have varying levels of cognitive ability and some have dementia. Some can talk in depth about the poem, whereas others simply enjoy the sounds or the discussion that erupts from it.

Lots of residents can recite poetry that they remember from their school years. Some residents like to read the poems aloud and it brings out confidence in them. You can really see the difference it makes.

'Daffodils' by Wordsworth is a favourite and one that residents know by heart. 'Adlestrop' by Edward Thomas evokes vivid memories of childhood for some residents who remember train journeys being a special occasion; reminiscing about holidays and trips to the seaside.
Edward Thomas takes you to Adlestrop where the stillness of the station and its surroundings can be felt. You know passengers are on the train but the stillness is expansive and the reader is transported to a calm space.

We found the last section particular uplifting:

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

It’s not only the residents who enjoy Shared Reading, the staff also enjoy the sessions and spend time choosing which poems to read. I particularly enjoyed 'Witness' by Eavan Boland, which brings images of a rocky coast and raging sea to mind. This poem took a bit of unpacking but it has a depth I wasn’t expecting.

It's lovely to be part of the group because we can see what it’s bringing out in people. We learn things about a resident that we didn’t know before, maybe about a house they lived in or a relationship they had. It creates a bond between the residents and staff.

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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