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The Reading Revolution is coming to Hackney – volunteers needed to bring literature to life with local older people

Written by Rachael Norris, 1st July 2019

After a decade reading aloud in London, The Reader has arrived in the borough in a unique collaboration with Hackney Libraries.

National charity The Reader is on the hunt for people across Hackney to join a transformative training programme that will see them armed to bring about a Reading Revolution locally.  

Working with Hackney Library Services, volunteers will be trained to lead Shared Reading groups in libraries and community centres across the borough with a weekly audience of older people who struggle to get out. Homerton Library and Clapton Library will be the first of eight places in the borough to get their new groups. 

Shared Reading – bringing great novels, poems and plays to life through live reading aloud and group discussion – is a powerful group experience that sparks connection, reflection and discovery.  

By creating space for people of all backgrounds and life situations to explore their inner lives and develop meaningful relationships with others, Shared Reading promotes confidence, improves wellbeing and builds communities. 

The Reader already supports more than 500 Shared Reading groups up and down the country each week thanks to a growing movement of over 1,000 volunteers. They commit four hours each week to preparing, delivering and recording some basic details from their group. 

For the first time, The Reader is working with the local library service and their transport partner to build this Shared Reading community by offering free, accessible door-to-door travel for group members who’d otherwise be unable to get to the new groups. 

In The Reader’s latest Feedback Week survey of more than 1,500 Readers across the UK: 

  • 94% said they look forward their Shared Reading group ‘as an important event in my week’. 
  • 91% said ‘the reading sessions make me feel better‘. 
  • 84% said they’ve made new friends in the group. 

“There are millions of elderly people who are chronically lonely in the UK,” explains The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis. “Hackney is a young and vibrant part of London, but that means there are tens of thousands of older people living here too that are feeling increasingly left out of their community’s story.   

“Whether you’re a Reader Leader or a group member, Shared Reading can help people to carve out that rare time and space in which we can create human connections, connect with ourselves and engage with meaningful thoughts in a unique, powerful way. 

“We are especially pleased to be working with Hackney Community Transport to ensure that people who find it difficult to leave the house will be able to join the Reading Revolution. They’ll join our existing community of almost 100 Shared Reading groups across the capital that take the time to read aloud together every single week.” 

This new project is also supported by the Arts Council through Hackney Library Services and the Big Lottery Fund, with money allocated to the project by The Reader as part of its plan to grow Shared Reading across the UK. 

Cllr Guy Nicholson, said: "Reading can transform lives, which is why Hackney's Community Libraries team deliver 90,000+ books to over 700 elderly and disabled people each year. Each month residents who have problems getting to the libraries can get their library books delivered to their home. This project takes that a step further, staff from the Libraries and a local social enterprise Hackney Community Transport, are providing a service that helps people to get to their local library and join in some fantastic shared reading sessions. 

Literature can unlock whole new worlds, and shared reading is a perfect way for people of all ages to come together, share their experiences, form new relationships and tackle loneliness. If you have a few hours spare during the week, please become a Reader and help those living life alone and who struggle to get to the library join in this great initiative." 

Joe Ferns, UK Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, The Reader has been able to extend its work into Hackney. These shared reading groups, led by volunteers, enable people to come together over a love of literature and help reduce loneliness across the borough.” 

Neil Darlison, Acting London Area Director, Arts Council England, said: “We know libraries play a broad role in communities, and one of Arts Council England’s roles to advocate and develop libraries. This project with The Reader and Hackney Libraries will strengthen opportunities for the Hackney community to engage with libraries and literature, and support those who may not normally use these services. We look forward to seeing the project develop.” 

Volunteers receive a fully funded, three-day training course and ongoing support from The Reader. 

To get involved, fill out the online form at or email


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