Our business in this site is talking about books, writing, publishing, and of course reading. In my facet as psychiatrist I’ve been known to use examples from books and talk to patients about literature (and films. Many want to talk about anything but their mental illnesses, very understandable when in some cases they’ve been in contact with services for years and have been asked the same questions over and over).
I was very interested when a few years back, whilst on a meeting with some forensic psychiatrist, one of my colleagues who worked at Rampton Hospital (a High Secure Mental Hospital in the outskirts of Liverpool) told us that she had joined in an initiative of the University of Liverpool to try and bring reading to a variety of settings, including mental health hospitals. The idea was that volunteers would run groups and would read especially selected texts (could be poems, short stories, etc) to groups of people (in that case patients) as a way of trying to engage them in an activity unrelated to the everyday of the hospital, and have interesting discussions and exchanges. The volunteers could be people who had nothing to do with the institutions or settings, and there was training and texts offered to them.
The group seemed to work fairly well and I was happy when I heard the same scheme would come to the area where I was working. Before I left the job I attended a presentation showing the positive effect the group had had so far. I’m keen on volunteering to be a facilitator and once I have a more fixed schedule I’ll try and give it a go.
This is the link to the organisation (The Reader) so you can visit and get some idea of what they do.
Here they describe who they are and what they do:
We bring people and great literature together.
Our primary way of doing this is through our innovative shared reading model, bringing people together in weekly groups to listen to poems and stories read aloud. Thoughts and experiences are shared; personal and social connections are made.
There is no pressure for anyone to read or even speak because simply listening to the literature and the other group members can be a powerful stimulant. The group leader seeks to create an atmosphere of lively collaboration, which is best felt in the literature itself:
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eyes sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life’s flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.
– Matthew Arnold, The Buried Life
It is our ambition to make shared reading widespread so that you could go to most places in the UK and easily find a group. We currently read with 2,000 people per week across a variety of settings; in the workplace, in prisons, on mental health wards, in care homes, in schools and in local communities.
Why do we do it?
Because, as one group member told us:
“you need it, you just don’t know you need it.”
The central power of the shared reading model means that we can help individuals to make changes to how they feel about themselves and how they relate to other people. Take a look at the Reader Stories dotted throughout the site to discover more about how shared reading is making a difference to people of all ages and backgrounds.
On the Events, Courses and Reading With Us pages, you’ll find other ways in which we are bringing people and literature closer together.
I’m sure the model is replicable anywhere… or you might be able to create your own version.
I leave you another link discussing benefits of reading (this time individual reading but…).
What are the personal benefits reading has for you?
Thanks for reading and if you’ve found it interesting…like, comment, share and CLICK!