The Reader is one of the organisations that inspired us as we researched how arts and culture can positively affect mental health and wellbeing.
Once upon a time… there was a reading group, bound by a spellbinding text.
The binding effects of literature has long been recognised. The word ‘text’ stems from the Latin ‘texere’, or woven thing. Texts are textile, yarns to be spun.
The Reader, a national charity that uses shared reading to strengthen communities, is founded on this basic insight. Its mission is to improve wellbeing, reduce social isolation and build resilience through the shared reading of great works of literature.
Headquartered in Liverpool, the organisation has established almost 500 Shared Reading groups across the UK. In London, there are reading communities in Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster, Croydon, Southwark, Barnet, Newham, Lambeth, Merton, Lewisham and Bromley.
Groups take place in diverse settings that range from care homes to schools, and prisons to high street cafes. The idea is simple: to create a movement of Readers with the power to change lives.
Joyce completed her volunteer Read to Lead training a year ago and runs her own weekly shared reading group:
“Running the group enables me to enjoy my favourite pastime in the company of others, to interact, to listen and to open up my mind to new ideas. It helps me be more accepting of and receptive to the opinions of others.
"The Reader is the best organisation I have ever belonged to as a group member and volunteer. The training for volunteer roles is outstanding and there is excellent ongoing support. I am always made to feel that I am a valued member of the community”.