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Featured Poem: The Question by Percy Bysshe Shelley

September 1, 2015

Friday sees the anniversary of Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s birth, so it seems only right that we celebrate with a selection from him for this week’s Featured Poem. The question of this particular poem comes at the end – and we won’t spoil it for you by revealing what it concerns – but first Shelley takes us on a lovely journey through nature, one of the prevailing themes of his works.

If you’d like even more of Shelley, you can read some of his other poems in our archive, including Mutability and The Mask of Anarchy.

The Question

I dreamed that, as I wandered by the way,
Bare Winter suddenly was changed to Spring,
And gentle odours led my steps astray,
Mixed with a sound of waters murmuring
Along a shelving bank of turf, which lay
Under a copse, and hardly dared to fling
Its green arms round the bosom of the stream,
But kissed it and then fled, as thou mightest in dream.

There grew pied wind-flowers and violets,
Daisies, those pearled Arcturi of the earth,
The constellated flower that never sets;
Faint oxlips; tender bluebells, at whose birth
The sod scarce heaved; and that tall flower that wets—
Like a child, half in tenderness and mirth—
Its mother’s face with Heaven’s collected tears,
When the low wind, its playmate’s voice, it hears.

And in the warm hedge grew lush eglantine,
Green cowbind and the moonlight-coloured may,
And cherry-blossoms, and white cups, whose wine
Was the bright dew, yet drained not by the day;
And wild roses, and ivy serpentine,
With its dark buds and leaves, wandering astray;
And flowers azure, black, and streaked with gold,
Fairer than any wakened eyes behold.

And nearer to the river’s trembling edge
There grew broad flag-flowers, purple pranked with white,
And starry river buds among the sedge,
And floating water-lilies, broad and bright,
Which lit the oak that overhung the hedge
With moonlight beams of their own watery light;
And bulrushes, and reeds of such deep green
As soothed the dazzled eye with sober sheen.

Methought that of these visionary flowers
I made a nosegay, bound in such a way
That the same hues, which in their natural bowers
Were mingled or opposed, the like array
Kept these imprisoned children of the Hours
Within my hand,—and then, elate and gay,
I hastened to the spot whence I had come,
That I might there present it!—Oh! to whom?

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Featured Poem: The Angel by William Blake

August 25, 2015

This week’s Featured Poem is a choice from William Blake, taken from his Songs of Experience. Blake began writing poetry when he was twelve, but his visionary experiences began before then at the age of eight when he told his mother that he had seen a tree filled with angels “bespangling every bough like stars”. Such visions became a theme through his work, with this poem alongside his other I Heard an Angel appealing to a different set of senses.

This poem was recently read in a shared reading group within a Criminal Justice setting, who are making their way through Skellig by David Almond. The Angel is featured within the book, sung at one point by one of the characters, and it was the melodious quality that was picked up by one of the group members in particular. The choice was found to be an ’empowering’ one – take a read and see what you think.

The Angel

I dreamt a dream! What can it mean?
And that I was a maiden Queen
Guarded by an Angel mild:
Witless woe was ne’er beguiled!

And I wept both night and day,
And he wiped my tears away;
And I wept both day and night,
And hid from him my heart’s delight.

So he took his wings, and fled;
Then the morn blushed rosy red.
I dried my tears, and armed my fears
With ten-thousand shields and spears.

Soon my Angel came again;
I was armed, he came in vain;
For the time of youth was fled,
And grey hairs were on my head.

William Blake

Volunteers lead the way for shared reading in Leicestershire

August 21, 2015

“It has been really exciting to watch something grow (like a seed) where it didn’t exist before, to watch it flourish and to be part of bringing that about is really exciting… I am always amazed at what we can learn through sharing our experiences with others.” – volunteer group leader

One of our groups sharing some reading as part of the Leicestershire Libraries project

One of our groups sharing some reading as part of the Leicestershire Libraries project

Since April 2014, shared reading has been taking place weekly in libraries across Leicestershire. The Reader Organisation partnered with Leicestershire County Council for the Leicestershire Libraries project, with volunteers being trained and supported to set up and run reading groups using our shared reading model. From one pilot group, seven groups now run across the area – all but one of which are led by our volunteers – and over 170 people in the area have experienced shared reading since the project began. We’re happy to say that feedback has been very positive, with benefits such as a deeper sense of relaxation and the forming of friendships emerging from the comments given by group members:

“I really have enjoyed beginning my week with this session. It’s a chance to catch up with the friends I’ve made and to lose myself in the depths of stories every week.”

“It has become a ‘must’ for my husband, he has memory problems, and looks forward to the group.”

“I need a goal to make me leave the house. I now look forward to Fridays.”

You can read more about some of our Leicestershire group members and their growing connections with shared reading on our website: Leicestershire Reader Stories

The success of the project simply wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of our volunteers, who give up their time week on week to offer the opportunity to take part in shared reading to new and returning members. Their commitment and enthusiasm has allowed bonds between those who read to flourish, and the experience of connecting with literature and the community has proved rewarding for them too. One of our volunteer group leaders shared their story of how they’re finding it so far:

“One of the first things which struck me about the groups is the ability of poems and short stories to open (or reopen) people’s minds to new thoughts. I believe there is something ‘childlike’ about all art – but literature, in particular, for me, is about allowing ourselves to play ‘let’s pretend’ and be carried along with the unfamiliar experiences/ideas which the author or poet is guiding us through. To do this in a group is extraordinary and seeing how different members respond is fascinating.”

The project has been recommissioned for 2015-16, enabling it to reach even newer heights – plans are underway to open two new groups in Loughborough and Market Harborough.

We’re currently recruiting for new volunteers to join the project and help run our shared reading groups across the area. Training will take place on Monday 7th, Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th September at Wigston Library, Leicester, with continued ongoing support from The Reader Organisation and the library service.

If you are interested in volunteering in Leicestershire or want to know more about the project, please contact Nicola Bennison, Leicestershire Libraries Project Coordinator:

Take a look at our current list of open groups in Leicestershire – in Melton Mowbray, Coalville, Hinckley, Wigston, Blaby, Oadby and Glenfield – on our website:

For Later Life 2015: Innovations in dementia

August 19, 2015

SDP1528-0134Professor Philip Davis, Director of the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS) at University of Liverpool, will appear at Age UK’s For Later Life 2015 Conference this November showcasing the latest research on the relationship between literature, shared reading and dementia.

The theme for this year’s For Later Life conference is brain ageing and dementia, and will consider how health and care services can best help older people in an increasingly ageing society to live as well as possible with cognitive decline, in many cases alongside other health conditions.

CRILS is the research partner of The Reader Organisation and most recently published Read to Care, a report evaluating the impacts of engaging with literature,  specifically the shared reading model introduced by The Reader Organisation, amongst people living with dementia. We have been reading in dementia settings since 2006, with the model adapted to make the reading experience more easily accessible and meaningful for group members involved. Examining how shared reading can contribute to an improvement in quality of life for people living with dementia, Read to Care places particular consideration on the impacts of reading poetry in shared reading groups upon mental processes including memory, emotion and personal awareness.

Amongst other findings, Read to Care highlights the connection between literature and memory for those with dementia, whereby poetry that is read acts as a ‘trigger’ to bring participants back to life for the moment they are experiencing, as well as recalling moments from their past. This is evidenced by group members taking part in the study, including Polly, whose story is recounted by the reading group leader:

Polly sometimes struggled to focus on the words on the page but would often comment on the difference that it made when she heard a poem read well. On another occasion Polly responded to certain lines as others were reading the poems, and would comment in sudden little phrases: ‘Oh isn’t that lovely!’

I asked her a question a bit later and she seemed slightly startled, as if she had been thinking. She then said: ‘Do you know what I think. When you’re young, why do you grow up?’ This felt like a very good question to be asking: perhaps somewhat in the spirit of a child, but from an adult’s perspective. The losses in dementia are often like the gains in development when, in the child, they come and go because not yet firmly established as acquired skills. Polly started to speak towards the end of the session of several childhood memories. She spoke of her father, who I had not heard her mention before. He had had a stroke when she was still only young, and Polly said that she couldn’t understand, as a child, why he couldn’t speak. She said there were times when she did not know where he was; she seemed to imply that it felt as if he was not there.

Professor Davis will discuss the relationship between shared reading and dementia and present findings from Read to Care in ‘The arts: case studies in dementia care’ as part of For Later Life 2015 on Wednesday 18th November at BMA House, London. The conference will showcase new approaches in the prevention and treatment of age-related cognitive impairment, innovative policy proposals and promising practice ideas, and the latest research findings.

Places registered before 23rd September 2015 benefit from reduced rates. For more information about the For Later Life Conference, see the Age UK website:

For more about Read to Care and research into shared reading, visit

Featured Poem: Elegy by Chidiock Tichborne

August 17, 2015

The Communications and Marketing team read this poem recently, and aside from puzzling over some of the lines and phrases (who has heard of ‘a frost of cares’, or likewise ‘a dish of pain’?), it proved to bring out more than a few deep thoughts. On first reading the person behind the verse seems to be troubled and young – a sad combination – but also not at a complete loss. A sense of unnoticed talent or achievement seems present in the lines ‘my tale was heard, and yet it was not told’ and ‘I saw the world, and yet I was not seen’, and even a strange sort of fulfilment can be found in ‘And now I die, and now I was but made’.

Chidiock Tichborne wrote this poem shortly before his execution at the age of 28. Why not take a read of the poem first, and then discover more of his story, which will no doubt give yet another perception to this deceptively simple verse.


My prime of youth is but a frost of cares;
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain:
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard, and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent, and yet I am not old,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen:
My thread is cut, and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death, and found it in my womb,
I looked for life, and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth, and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

Chidiock Tichborne

Featured Poem: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Eugene Field

August 11, 2015

We had a wonderful time with City of Readers and Beanstalk at Anytime is Storytime across Liverpool yesterday, as part of the Read On Get On campaign. The day was a city-wide celebration of reading for pleasure for children and families, encouraging a love of books early in life. There were lots of great stories shared and lots of reading fun had on the Dazzle Ferry, at Waterstones in Liverpool One and a range of green spaces around the city, including Croxteth Hall and Walled Gardens, Isla Gladstone Conservatory at Stanley Park and the L15 Community Gardens, Garmoyle Road.

As well as the wealth of brilliant literature available, children’s poetry is also a fantastic source to encourage imagination, telling fantastical stories in a short form. This week’s Featured Poem is a classic, and will keep little ones and big kids alike entertained.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,”
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,—
Never afraid are we!”
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam,—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ‘twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:—
And Nod.

Eugene Field

To see all the fun from Anytime is Storytime, see the @LivCityReaders Twitter.

Social Enterprise thrives in the North West

August 4, 2015

SE100_Infographic_July2015_29A (2)The North West has been recognised as a leading region for social enterprises in the UK, and The Reader Organisation is proud to stand amongst the top regionally based social enterprises listed in the Natwest SE100 Index.

The Natwest SE100 Index tracks the performance, growth, financial progress and positive impacts of social businesses across the UK, breaking down data by regions and sectors. It includes data from nearly 1,000 businesses and organisations to date, 83 in the last year hailing from the North West, and all of which can be viewed on an open-access platform. You can view and search the Index here.

Over the past financial year, the North West social enterprise contingent has recorded an average growth of 9.6%, a total combined turnover of over £717 million and a combined regional profit increase from £62.9 to £69 million.

The Reader Organisation is listed in the Health and social care sector of the SE100 Index, one of the top three sectors for profit growth in the North West in the last year. Each week our shared reading groups – running in the North West and elsewhere across the UK – are reaching people with social, mental and physical issues in a variety of settings, providing an alternative and cost effective solution to society-wide problems, stimulating wellbeing and social interaction and providing access to great literature. As one of our members puts it:

“The reading group mends holes in the net you would otherwise fall through.”

Our Founder and Director Jane Davis comments on the value of being included in the SE100:

“The SE100 allows social enterprises to benchmark themselves against others and compete with the commercial sector. Profiling the success of social enterprise is a step towards changing people’s attitude to social businesses. Social enterprise is the way forward – capitalism, as we have known it, is not going to survive. Something else has to happen – people must become more important than profit.”

We’re delighted to be part of the thriving social enterprise sector in the North West, and look forward to building on the region’s success in the oncoming year with our continued development of Calderstones Mansion to become the International Centre for Reading and the opening of the Storybarn – the region’s first interactive story centre for children.

For more about social enterprise success in the North West, visit the Natwest SE100 website and Twitter: @SE100


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