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On Monday 20th April, learn how to unlock young people’s love of literature

April 17, 2015
“I didn’t do reading before, but it’s fun and I love it now. Reading aloud is better than in your head. It’s like you’re on an adventure, you can understand more aloud.” –
Looked-after child, reading in a one-to-one session

On Monday 20th April from 2-5pm, discover how you can inspire a love of words and reading in young people, from tiny tots to teens!

Join Up for Arts, championing arts participation and volunteering in Merseyside, and The Reader Organisation, pioneering an exciting new way to engage with literature through shared reading groups across the UK.

Highlights will include:

  • An extract from David Almond’s award-winning book Skellig, read by BBC Radio Merseyside’s very own Roger Phillips
  • Top 10 Tips for reading with children and a Q&A, brought to you by practitioners from The Reader Organisation
  • An opportunity to see shared reading in action, in The Reader Organisation’s end-of-talk taster sessions
  • Information about the new Liverpool Families project, and how you can get involved in reading with disadvantaged children across the city.
Book your place

Spaces are limited, so book now to avoid disappointment. Contact the BBC Radio Merseyside ‘A’ Team on 0151 794 0984 to book a place, or to leave your details to find out more.

Venue address
BBC Radio Merseyside
Liverpool One
31 College Lane
Liverpool, Merseyside L1 3DS

Mental Health in Context

April 16, 2015

Mental Health in Context
Tuesday 21st April, 5.30-7.30pm
The Women’s Organisation, 54 James Street, Liverpool L1 0AB

Introduced by Vice Chancellor of University of Liverpool, Professor Janet Beer

featuring a guest appearance from Jeanette Winterson, in conversation and reading from her work

with Professor Rhiannon Corcoran, Dr Jane Davis and Dr Eleanor Longden


Jeanette Winterson will be speaking about how literature was an alternative in her own experiences with mental health

This inaugural event of a new research group at the University of Liverpool will showcase real-life research in the University for the City in vital areas of human well-being.

Working within the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, Mental Health in Context brings together experts in the University of Liverpool from various fields of psychology and culture to consider mental health difficulties within the broader context of the social, cultural and personal realms in order to improve the understanding and treatment of those difficulties in the modern world.

This special event, launching Mental Health in Context and showing its relation to real-life concerns in the city and the region, will highlight four major projects of major relevance to public well-being , including the development of the International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing at Calderstones Mansion. For more information on the projects, please see the MHIC website.

Jeanette Winterson, the distinguished novelist who was born and raised in the North West of England, will speak of her own mental health experiences including her fictional and autobiographical writings, including her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, her belief in alternative interventions including in particular the uses of literature, and read from her work.

“Dealing with our world is really hard work. It is hard to be healthy, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, in a world where there is so little security and so much fear. Ill health is a response, a consequence of the way we live. It should not be pushed back onto us all as a personal problem. For me it’s the relationship between mind, body, outside world, and soul. The body so often carries the burdens of mental disturbance – usually through addiction, which can be food, drink, drugs, self-harming, or the pathology of wanting to be attractive all the time. Good mental health depends on knowing that life has an inside as well as an outside. That’s why meditation is so good. That’s why reading and the arts are so good. Knowing how to be on your own is one of the keystones of mental health.” – Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette was interviewed by The Reader Organisation’s Founder Jane Davis for The Reader prior to the publication of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? about her experiences. The interview can be found online here: 

Dr Eleanor Longden exemplifies the nature of the project and the evening: she is someone who has had both profound personal experience of mental difficulties and is also a researcher within MHIC at University of Liverpool. She exemplifies the crucial two-way relation between research and reality, which is the subject-matter and purpose of MHIC. Her TED talk, ‘The Voices in My Head’, has attracted wide interest, amassing nearly 3 million views (and can be viewed here).

Places to attend are free, and can be booked here:

The Reader Organisation: a Workplace for Wellbeing

April 14, 2015

workplace wellbeing charterWe’re always keen to point out the links between shared reading, great literature and good wellbeing, but our credentials for healthy living here at The Reader Organisation have been given another boost as we have been reaccredited for the Workplace Wellbeing Charter.

The Workplace Wellbeing Charter is an opportunity for organisations to demonstrate their commitment to the health and wellbeing of their workforce. Like the shared reading groups we run throughout the UK each week, the Charter takes a holistic approach to wellbeing that includes leadership, culture and communication, as well as health and wellbeing topics such as physical activity and mental health, promoting rounded discussions between employers and employees. The standards reflect best practice and are endorsed nationally by Public Health England, with our accreditation carried out by Health@Work.

The magnificent Magnolia tree outside the Mansion House that boosts our wellbeing

The magnificent Magnolia tree outside the Mansion House that boosts our wellbeing

Being based in the beautiful and blooming surroundings of Calderstones Park in Liverpool, we were already off to a good start (taking a look at The Allerton Oak and a particularly lovely magnolia tree provides the perfect opportunity to get into the fresh air and clear our minds) but we’re very pleased to report an overall achievement in the several categories of wellbeing outlined by the Charter.

The set of values that shape our culture and working practices both internally and externally, including ‘Great literature is at our heart’, ‘We value innovation and find ways to live with change’ and ‘We celebrate success but learn from our mistakes’, were highlighted as particularly significant:

The Reader Organisation’s values are to be highly praised. It is clear that this set of eight values runs right through the heart of the organisation and is not merely theoretical or tokenistic.

Other stand-out points included the support given to staff in their roles through methods including a personal development programme, action to encourage staff participation to become involved in physical activity and our shared lunches each Monday, bringing staff together with lots of good, healthy food.

We’re proud to be wearing the badge for wellbeing, demonstrating our commitment to encourage positive practices both inside and outside of the organisation.

If you’d like to come and work for an organisation that values good wellbeing, we’re currently recruiting for a number of jobs based at our Liverpool HQ, including a Volunteer Coordinator for an exciting new project working with children and families, a developer for our upcoming Story Barn at Calderstones and managerial positions in Marketing, IT and Operations. See our website for full details on all roles, including how to apply and deadlines for applications:

Featured Poem: Adam’s Curse by W.B. Yeats

April 13, 2015

Today marks what would have been the 76th birthday of Seamus Heaney, one of Ireland’s defining poets. Heaney’s work touched upon a range of personal and more widely felt topics, and we take heart from his belief in the importance of poetry and the arts in times of crisis:

“If poetry and the arts do anything, they can fortify your inner life, your inwardness.”

We’ll be delving into A Little, Aloud to read one of his poems (one that’s especially appropriate with The Big Dig at Calderstones Park), but we’re also enjoying a poem from another great Irish poet, W.B. Yeats – another testament to the wonders of poetry, nature and love. We especially love ‘I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe/Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought/Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.’ – stitching and unstitching is something we’re very keen on as part of our shared reading groups!

Adam’s Curse

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’
And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

W.B. Yeats

Goodbye and Good Luck to our Apprentice Zoe

April 9, 2015

Saying goodbye is always bittersweet, but it’s with looking back on some wonderful achievements that we bid a fond farewell to our Reader Apprentice Zoe Jermy.

Zoe joined The Reader Organisation over two years ago with her apprenticeship being funded by money raised by our Apprenticeships: Building Opportunities for Life scheme, a programme designed especially to provide a young person from the local community with a flexible and specially tailored way into the working world. Keeping a focus on practical and creative work experience in a range of different areas, the apprenticeship role aimed to develop competencies and through experience, equip with life skills including social awareness, emotional resilience, enterprise and creativity.

Zoe was the third Apprentice employed by us and has been an incredible asset to the organisation, being a key part of our Wirral team (and helping us out on the other side of the River Mersey in Liverpool too). She’s packed an amazing amount into the last two years; here’s Zoe’s account of the time in her own words:

I am very grateful for my 2 year apprenticeship at The Reader Organisation. I met a lot of friendly people and built up a lovely relationship with Helen who supported me greatly; I’ve had lots of new experiences, and learnt loads of new skills.

I started working in Leasowe Library with Vic, working with the kids there. It was lovely as the kids got on really well with Eamee, Niall and myself. I will always be grateful to Eamee for taking me under her wing, as if it wasn’t for Eamee I don’t think I would have got through some of the things she helped me with. Thank you Eamee, you are a STAR!

I started going to a group in The Lauries Centre on a Thursday morning with Helen. Helen then left that group and I met Selina. Soon I started helping Selina out with teas & coffees and helped set up the room in the morning, I also sometimes picked a poem to go with the book we were reading. I became really confident with the chats and soon learnt a lot from Selina when she did the facilitation. Some days Selina took leave and I was confident enough to run the group on my own.

I then started working at St Ann’s Primary School with Jane, Eamee and Charlotte. This was also a lovely place to work and it was really fun to work with the boys. They loved reading The Pencil.

The next thing that I found very challenging was the two day event in Calderstones. I was really nervous and had a panic attack so I went in the kitchen to take some time out and Jane found me and asked what was wrong. I explained and she spoke to me and gave me some great support, saying ‘you can do it!’ She gave me a hug and I went out and started helping to sell books. I was so proud of myself. The second day that I was there I knew what to expect and did brilliant!

I started going to Highcroft Day Centre and the centre was really nice too. The staff were so helpful and made you feel so welcome. I then started doing Birkenhead Court which was another elderly centre. Sandra the volunteer was great with the residents and I became more confident when we both took it in turns to read a poem each and discuss it.

I went to The SEN Awards and it was lovely. I am so glad I went as I will never get another experience like it. It was a night I will never forget and it made it even better that The Reader Organisation won!

I have passed my Theory driving test and all my English, Maths and customer service with Cathy Chan from Sysco training. I also passed my Level 2 English in college.

I started going to Selina’s group on a Wednesday and loved it ever since I started; it is the one thing I have stuck to most while in my apprenticeship. Wednesdays were when I was my happiest. I have met the most amazing people from the groups to the staff in the Library.

I want to stay a HUGE thank you for everyone who has supported me and given me belief in myself as if it wasn’t for you kind people I wouldn’t be where I am today. I always thought low of myself and never thought I was going to achieve anything but you have all shown me help, support and love though my journey and I am so grateful but also so sad to be leaving. I am not very good at expressing myself even through writing but I will never forget the big and small things that people have done for me. Thank you!

All of us at The Reader Organisation would like to say a huge thanks to Zoe for all her hard work and enthusiasm. We wish her the very best for her bright future and in all that she does.

Read more about one of Zoe’s adventures during her Apprenticeship,  taking a trip to Antwerp to help us run one of our international Read to Lead courses.

Featured Poem: The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll

April 6, 2015

As it’s a Bank Holiday, we’re taking a trip down the rabbit hole and visiting Wonderland…this week in 1862, while taking a trip out onto the river from Oxford, Lewis Carroll told a fantastical story to three young sisters – Lorina, Edith and Alice. So enthralled was Alice that she asked for it to be written down, and that very story became Alice in Wonderland, named after the young reader who loved the tale.

The text of Alice in Wonderland features a number of parody poems, and this narrative poem is taken from Through The Looking-Glass, recited by Tweedledum and Tweedledee to Alice. A good example of shared reading, even in a world much more unusual than our own…

The Walrus and the Carpenter

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

Lewis Carroll

The Reader 57

April 2, 2015
Issue 57 of The Reader arrives at The Reader HQ - ready for post out next week!

Issue 57 of The Reader arrives at The Reader HQ – ready for post out next week!

We might still be waiting for the temperatures to rise, but something guaranteed to put some warmth into Spring is the latest issue of The Reader.

Amongst the green leaves are two new short stories by Connie Bensley and Tim Parks, the latter of which is an account of the last days of the mysterious ‘Mrs P':

“From being someone with time on her hands, happy to get company when she could, Mrs. P has become someone it is rather difficult to get hold of, a person you need to make an appointment with.” – Mrs P, Tim Parks

There’s poetry by the plenty with new work from Greg Moglia, Howard Wright, Chris Allen, Martin Malone and Marjorie Lofti Gill, Imtiaz Dharker writes on ‘Over The Moon’ from her collection Undone in the Poet on Her Work and we go back to the 17th century for Brian Nellist’s latest selection of The Old Poem.

Acclaimed film and television director Ken Loach speaks to Fiona McGee about his long standing relationship with writers and writing, tracing the connection into film and his own work, highlighting the importance of substance over visual style:

“The only thing that I’ve ever looked for is somebody who could write real people. If you read a page and the characters live and the dialogue sounds true then you’re looking at the work of a writer.” – Ken Loach

Two illuminating essays, considerable different in topic, come from author Salley Vickers and pioneering biologist Rupert Sheldrake, who write on instinct and sacrifice and psychic pets respectively.

There’s lots more to look forward to, including Ian McMillan on Ted Hughes and Five Wild Encounters recommended by Sarah Coley.

Issue 57 will be landing on doorsteps throughout the country and on The Reader Organisation’s website very soon, but in the meantime if you haven’t already got your subscription to The Reader now is the perfect time to do so. A year’s subscription gives you four issues worth, costing £24 in the UK and £36 international.

For full details on subscribing, visit the website:



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