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Reading and Volunteering

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 14th February 2014

Four women talk about The Unforgotten Coat outdoorsOur shared reading projects across the UK are showing that reading is not only good for enriching the mind, but has a profound social benefit. Shared reading in Wirral is bringing an average of £6.47 worth of social value to group members for every £1 invested, improving their wellbeing, and huge impacts of regular shared reading sessions include increased personal confidence and self esteem, social engagement and participation in the community. Evaluations of our work have shown:

  • 75% of group members feel more confident about socialising
  • 96% see the group as an opportunity to meet people they wouldn't usually meet in their day-to-day life

Also, over two thirds of group members reported that they are more likely to consider volunteering or have become a volunteer since being part of a shared reading group. It's not surprising that reading relates to greater social activity - a 2004 study by the National Endowment for the Arts in America found that literary readers are much more likely to participate socially than those who do not read, attending arts events at a higher rate and being over two and a half times more likely to do volunteer or charity work within their communities [NEA Research Division, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America (2004)].

The Reader Organisation has a volunteering programme that is fast expanding, and we currently run a range of schemes across the UK which give our readers a chance to become more involved as volunteers, spreading the joy and social benefits of shared reading even further, often to some of the most vulnerable people in society. In our volunteering programmes in Merseyside and Barnet, North London, volunteers can go on to read with older people in care homes and those living with dementia, making a real and measurable difference to lives that are otherwise isolated. As part of our North Wales project, we're building a bank of volunteers who will help us to embed a culture of shared reading across the region over the next three years.

All of our volunteers receive support and training from The Reader Organisation staff and as well as benefitting the lives of others can further their own development.

"I feel very privileged to volunteer with this group. The members are truly inspiring. It keeps me learning too."

"It's a responsibility and it's a joy. It's a commitment and it's a privilege."

Find out more about volunteering with The Reader Organisation in Merseyside, London and North Wales by visiting our website:

You can also read more about some of our volunteers and their experiences in their own words in our Reader Stories:

We'll be sharing more about our volunteering opportunities in Barnet, as they expand to include two new projects, in the coming weeks here on The Reader Online.

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