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Volunteering with The Reader Organisation in Devon

October 30, 2014

reading 1The Reader Organisation’s volunteering presence is about to grow in South West England, as we look for more people to help us continue to develop our shared reading projects in the area.

We’ve already got valued volunteers on board with us in Wiltshire reading with people living with dementia, and now we’re recruiting for volunteer group facilitators for our community shared reading project in Devon.

Applicants will join us to run Feel Better with a Book groups at libraries in Exeter, Tiverton and Cullompton. Funded by Devon County Council and run by The Reader Organisation, Feel Better with a Book groups provide a stimulating environment where people can meet weekly to connect with each other through the shared reading of great literature. This opportunity will give you the chance to become part of The Reader Organisation in the South West, receiving fully funded training, as well as engage with literature on a fresh and emotionally stimulating perspective.

For a short amount of time – one and a half hours per week – you will be acting as an assistant group facilitator in a weekly Feel Better with a Book group before training to independently facilitate the same group. We ask for a minimum of a one year commitment, but the opportunity is ongoing and can last for as long as you and your group want it to.

This position will also benefit from a free place on The Reader Organisation’s revolutionary Read to Lead training, a three-day course in shared reading which will qualify you as a shared reading practitioner able to facilitate in community settings. The three day training will take place at The Hayridge Centre, Cullompton, Devon from Tuesday 25th – Thursday 27th November.

One of current volunteers in Devon explains what volunteering with The Reader Organisation means to her:

“I saw the opportunity to be a ‘Read to Lead’  volunteer as a way of combining what I most enjoy; being in conversation with people of all ages and reading wonderful literature together.  I am learning new ways of appreciating others’ thoughts and responses to what has been read, as well as becoming better at listening and staying focused in general.   The group is fun, engaging and relaxed at the same time. I have been reading a lot more on my own steam too – as a result of feeling inspired to do so.  This is volunteering at its best for me!”

If you have excellent literacy and comprehension, are good at reading aloud or willing to learn to improve your skills, have the ability to manage group dynamics and a desire to relate to people in an open and human way, you could become a Volunteer Assistant Group Facilitator with us in Devon.

For more information on volunteering with us in Devon, please contact Emily Lezzeri: emilylezzeri@thereader.org.uk or call 07450 167788, and see our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/south-west

Full details of our open Feel Better with a Book groups running across Devon and the South West can be found on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us

Allerton Oak shortlisted for England’s Tree of the Year

October 29, 2014

AllertonOakAs the leaves are cascading, it’s a time to take notice of the trees lining the streets and scenery around us – and there’s exciting news as one of Liverpool’s most famed trees has been shortlisted to become England’s Tree of the Year.

The Allerton Oak – Calderstones Park’s star attraction – has made the list of ten shortlisted trees, whittled down from over 200 nominations.  The first England’s Tree of the Year award has been organised by The Woodland Trust to recognise the cultural and ecological value of England’s countryside, as well as to discover which is the most unique and well-loved of the country’s trees.

The list contains trees steeped in all kinds of history and heritage, including one where the Magna Carta was thought to have been signed and the inspiration for Newton’s discovery on his theory of gravity. The Allerton Oak itself has many stories to tell, with its fables famous across the city. It is believed to have stood in Calderstones Park for over a thousand years, though in fact it is probably nearer to being 800 years old, and was the meeting place of The Hundred Court of Liverpool, in the absence of a court being available.

The Allerton Oak has also weathered destruction – some of its branches are missing and propped due to damage caused by the explosion of a gunpowder ship called the Lottie Sleigh in the River Mersey, which split the tree in half – and was also incorporated into keeping the spirit up during WWII, when leaves from the tree were pressed and included in Christmas cards sent to members of the park’s staff who were serving in the forces.

The title of England’s Tree of the Year will be decided by an online public vote, closing on Tuesday 4th November. The winner will go on to represent the country in the 2015 European Tree of the Year contest.

Head to The Woodland Trust’s website to vote for The Allerton Oak: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/news/latest/england-toty/

And to inspire you further, here’s an ode to trees of all shapes and sizes:

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer

Featured Poem: The Sign-Post by Edward Thomas

October 28, 2014
by

Better late than never – here is this week’s Featured Poem, for your delectation this Tuesday lunchtime.

Yesterday (27th October) was the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, Wales’s most famous poets. Hopefully you will have celebrated by reading one of his works.

This week’s Featured Poem selection continues to celebrate verse hailing from the country, with a suitably haunting piece of poetry from one of its other poetic sons, Edward Thomas.

The Sign-Post

The dim sea glints chill. The white sun is shy,
And the skeleton weeds and the never-dry,
Rough, long grasses keep white with frost
At the hill-top by the finger-post;
The smoke of the traveller’s-joy is puffed
Over hawthorn berry and hazel tuft.
I read the sign. Which way shall I go?
A voice says: “You would not have doubted so
At twenty.” Another voice gentle with scorn
Says: “At twenty you wished you had never been born.”
One hazel lost a leaf of gold
From a tuft at the tip, when the first voice told
The other he wished to know what ‘twould be
To be sixty by this same post. “You shall see,”
He laughed -and I had to join his laughter -
“You shall see; but either before or after,
Whatever happens, it must befall.
A mouthful of earth to remedy all
Regrets and wishes shall be freely given;
And if there be a flaw in that heaven
‘Twill be freedom to wish, and your wish may be
To be here or anywhere talking to me,
No matter what the weather, on earth,
At any age between death and birth, -
To see what day or night can be,
The sun and the frost, tha land and the sea,
Summer, Winter, Autumn, Spring, -
With a poor man of any sort, down to a king,
Standing upright out in the air
Wondering where he shall journey, O where?”

Edward Thomas

Featured Poem: from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

October 20, 2014

This week’s Featured Poem celebrates one of English Literature’s best-known poets, and one of the most highly regarded members of the Romantic movement, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Tomorrow (October 21st) is the 242nd anniversary of his birth, so what better way to mark the occasion by with a selection from one of his most famous works.

This is to whet your appetite, but if you want to read the whole poem in full, click here.

from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

“Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from heaven,
That slid into my soul.

The silly buckets on the deck,
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
And when I awoke, it rained.

My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.

I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light -almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.

And soon I heard a roaring wind:
It did not come anear;
But with its sound it shook the sails,
That were so thin and sere.

The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.

And the coming wind did roar more loud,
And the sails did sigh like sedge;
And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
The moon was at its edge.

The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The moon was at its side:
Like waters shot from some high crag,
The lightning fell with never a jag,
A river steep and wide.

The loud wind never reached the ship,
Yet now the ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the moon
The dead men gave a groan.

They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.

The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools -
We were a ghastly crew.

The body of my brother’s son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.”

`I fear thee, ancient Mariner!’
“Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!
‘Twas not those souls that fled in pain,
Which to their corses came again,
But a troop of spirits blest:

For when it dawned -they dropped their arms,
And clustered round the mast;
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
And from their bodies passed.

Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
Then darted to the sun;
Slowly the sounds came back again,
Now mixed, now one by one.

Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the skylark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!

And now ’twas like all instruments,
Now like a lonely flute;
And now it is an angel’s song,
That makes the heavens be mute.

It ceased; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.

Till noon we quietly sailed on,
Yet never a breeze did breathe;
Slowly and smoothly went the ship,
Moved onward from beneath.

Under the keel nine fathom deep,
From the land of mist and snow,
The spirit slid: and it was he
That made the ship to go.
The sails at noon left off their tune,
And the ship stood still also.

The sun, right up above the mast,
Had fixed her to the ocean:
But in a minute she ‘gan stir,
With a short uneasy motion -
Backwards and forwards half her length
With a short uneasy motion.

Then like a pawing horse let go,
She made a sudden bound:
It flung the blood into my head,
And I fell down in a swound.

How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.

`Is it he?’ quoth one, `Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.

The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.’

The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, `The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.’

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Chris Salmon Poetry Extravaganza 2015

October 17, 2014

Calling all budding poets in Wirral – details of the region’s annual celebration of poetry have been announced, as The Chris Salmon Poetry Extravaganza 2015 is open for entries.

Held in conjunction with Wirral Libraries, the competition is held in memory of poetry-loving Chris Salmon, a student at Calday Grange Grammar School who died from a rare streptococcal infection in February 2009 aged just 15. Last year’s competition was an enormous success, attracting over 850 entries from across the region.

The theme for 2015 is ‘Light’, and the competition is open to Wirral adults and students of all ages. Cash prizes will be awarded to both winners and runners-up in each age category (Age 11 and Under; Ages 11-16; Age 16-18; and Adults), and they will also be invited to attend a workshop hosted by a local renowned poet. The overall winner aged 18 or under will also become Wirral’s Young Poet Laureate for the following 12 months.

Chris’s mother Julie Salmon said:

“We are absolutely delighted how much the popularity of the competition has grown, attracting 850 entries last year with the age of the entrants ranging from 5-90 years. We hope that the amount of entrants for the 2015 competition will surpass even last year’s record amount. We are so grateful for the magnificent support we receive from Wirral Council’s Library service as without their support the poetry extravaganza would not exist.”

Cllr Chris Meaden, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture said:

“Last year’s competition saw hundreds of adults and young people send in their poetry. I know the judges had a really difficult decision to make because of the high standards that were set, and this year will be no different.

It’s always a pleasure to be able to celebrate Chris’s life, and the impact his memory and legacy continues to have on Wirral, thanks to the Salmon family.”

Submitted poems must be no longer than 30 lines. Entry is free, and all entries must be submitted by 15th January 2015.

Winners will be invited to read their poems at a Presentation Night on 27th March 2015 at Bromborough Civic Centre.

Entries must be on or attached to an official entry form (downloadable here) and submitted by 15th January 2015. Entries can be submitted by email to dianemitchell@wirral.gov.uk, or in an envelope marked ‘FAO Diane Mitchell’ to Birkenhead Library, Borough Road, Birkenhead, Wirral CH41 2XB

For full competition details, see www.chrissalmon.org.uk

Read to Care: Shared Reading groups and Quality of Life benefits for people living with Dementia

October 15, 2014

BUPA care home 1 online“Isn’t if funny? We come in with nothing and go out with all these thoughts.” – reading group member, living with dementia

The Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool has published ‘Read to Care‘, an evaluation report of a research project investigating the quality of life benefits and impacts for people living with dementia in shared reading activity across Merseyside.

CRILS is a research unit dedicated to investigating the effect of reading serious literature in the wider world, with a view to benefits in health and wellbeing, and is The Reader Organisation’s research partner. In 2012, CRILS evaluated TRO’s shared reading programme for people living with dementia with support from the Headley Trust - ‘A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia’ showed that shared reading provided marked improvements in agitation levels, mood levels and concentration levels for participants, as well as improved social interaction.

Developing from this, TRO was commissioned by NHS North West to undertake a follow-up study of the effects of shared reading in Care Homes in Wirral. The aim of the project was to further investigate the impact engaging in a shared reading group activity has upon people living with dementia, adding to and supporting a growing body of anecdotal evidence.

In ‘Read to Care’, particular consideration is given to:

  • the uses of powerfully emotional literature to trigger awakenings in people living with dementia;
  • the value of literature in offering emotional experiences too often feared to be ‘negative';
  • the kind of memory that is stimulated by shared reading – different from working memory or from what is achieved through reminiscence therapy;
  • the additional effect on relatives and carers

The conclusions and recommendations of the report show that shared reading groups significantly improve the quality of life of people living with dementia, as well as providing valuable benefit to care workers and relatives in encouragement of remaining human possibilities.

“Reading aloud when others are there to listen, the sense of being in a unified community, has been the privilege of Poets for millenia. And it works. The words – common to all, unite minds and the shared stimulus appears to have an uplifting group effect.” – Melvyn Bragg (preface to Read to Care)

The report will be the focus of a presentation held at the University of Liverpool this November. Professor Phil Davis, Director of CRILS, will present findings from Read to Care, alongside one of The Reader Organisation’s project workers who was involved in the practical delivery of the groups participating in the project. Anyone interested in dementia and the relationship between literature, health and wellbeing is welcome to discover more.

‘Read to Care: Shared Reading Groups & Quality of Life Benefits for People Living With Dementia’ with Professor Phil Davis is on Thursday 20th November, 6.00pm, at Lecture Theatre 1, Sherrington Building, Ashton Street (off Pembroke Place), University of Liverpool.

Cost: £20, including buffet supper.

For more information and to book your place, download this registration form, and return to Joan Scott in the University of Liverpool CPD team at iltcpd@liv.ac.uk or telephone 0151 794 5776.

Featured Poem: A Child in the Garden by Henry Van Dyke

October 13, 2014
by

Our Featured Poem comes this week from American author, educator and clergyman Henry Van Dyke, and was one of the poems enjoyed at our recent staff Think Day at Calderstones Mansion House – a place that is surrounded by ‘gardens of untroubled thought’.

Take a few moments of peace and reflection – and perhaps even conjure up some fond childhood memories – this Monday morning.

A Child in the Garden

When to the garden of untroubled thought
I came of late, and saw the open door,
And wished again to enter, and explore
The sweet, wild ways with stainless bloom inwrought,
And bowers of innocence with beauty fraught,
It seemed some purer voice must speak before
I dared to tread that garden loved of yore,
That Eden lost unknown and found unsought.

Then just within the gate I saw a child, –
A stranger-child, yet to my heart most dear;
He held his hands to me, and softly smiled
With eyes that knew no shade of sin or fear:
“Come in,” he said, “and play awhile with me;”
“I am the little child you used to be.”

Henry Van Dyke

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