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Prinovis supports Vision for Business Literacy Pledge 2016

November 25, 2015

Business Pledge (1)We’re proud to have one of our corporate supporters be amongst the first to sign up to the Vision for Business Literacy Pledge 2016. Prinovis are one of 41 businesses pledging action to help raise literacy levels, boost the economy and improve social mobility by tackling the literacy challenge within the UK, joining other leading business signatories including Boots Opticians, Sainsbury’s and Waterstones.

Poor literacy undermines the UK’s economic competitiveness and creates barriers to a fairer society, with up to 35% of the adult population in the country’s most deprived wards lacking the skills and confidence needed to help their children with reading and writing skills. Launched by the National Literacy Forum, the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 calls on the UK business community to join the national literacy campaign and deliver tangible benefits to help close the literacy gap.

The team at Prinovis have been working closely with us in the past year, lending their support to regeneration at Calderstones Mansion and doing an amazing job of refurbishing our first sponsored Reading Room. They joined us at our AGM last month to speak about the ways in which their staff are incorporating literature into the workplace, and by committing to the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge they’ll be doing even more to raise the profile of reading for pleasure and its significance for creating strong, well-equipped workforces.

The Pledge builds on the Vision for Literacy 2025, a policy document released by the National Literacy Forum in October 2014 with cross-party support. It called on the whole of society to a play a part in raising literacy levels. The Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 provides a framework for businesses to take action to help raise literacy levels in the UK.

To find out more about the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 visit or download the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 brochure for the full list of the first 41 businesses to sign up.

Featured Poem: Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood by William Cullen Bryant

November 23, 2015

We’re not quite in the midst of a ‘wild wood’ at our HQ in Calderstones Park, but there’s plenty of green – and increasingly frost covered – spaces to take a wander, in which we can ‘view the haunts of Nature’. If you’re in need of a spirit lift this week, why not read this poem by American poet William Cullen Bryant – known best as a nature poet – which should soon infuse you with the joys of the outside world (whilst remaining warm).

Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood

Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs
No school of long experience, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,
To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade
Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze
That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here
Of all that pained thee in the haunts of men
And made thee loathe thy life. The primal curse
Fell, it is true, upon the unsinning earth,
But not in vengeance. God hath yoked to guilt
Her pale tormentor, misery. Hence, these shades
Are still the abodes of gladness; the thick roof
Of green and stirring branches is alive
And musical with birds, that sing and sport
In wantonness of spirit; while below
The squirrel, with raised paws and form erect,
Chirps merrily. Throngs of insects in the shade
Try their thin wings and dance in the warm beam
That waked them into life. Even the green trees
Partake the deep contentment; as they bend
To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky
Looks in and sheds a blessing on the scene.
Scarce less the cleft-born wild-flower seems to enjoy
Existence, than the winged plunderer
That sucks its sweets. The massy rocks themselves,
And the old and ponderous trunks of prostrate trees
That lead from knoll to knoll a causey rude
Or bridge the sunken brook, and their dark roots,
With all their earth upon them, twisting high,
Breathe fixed tranquillity. The rivulet
Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o’er its bed
Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks,
Seems, with continuous laughter, to rejoice
In its own being. Softly tread the marge,
Lest from her midway perch thou scare the wren
That dips her bill in water. The cool wind,
That stirs the stream in play, shall come to thee,
Like one that loves thee nor will let thee pass
Ungreeted, and shall give its light embrace.

William Cullen Bryant

Social Business Trust backs The Reader with £1.5m support

November 18, 2015

SBT Logo RGBWe’re delighted to announce the news that Social Business Trust has awarded £1.5 million worth of funding and business support to The Reader, allowing us to reach many more people across the country through shared reading.

We’ve been working with SBT since 2013, when their initial funding and investment of £280,000 gave us the learning and support needed to grow and strengthen the core of what we do. Expertise from SBT’s corporate partners including British Gas have enabled us to develop our projects, measure our impacts and help people who need the benefits that our unique and innovative shared reading model can bring. Thanks to continued support from SBT through this new package of funding, we’ll be able to more than double the number of people we reach from 11,000 a year to 27,000 by 2018.

Adele Blakeborough MBE, CEO of Social Business Trust has seen the effects of shared reading for herself:

“It is incredibly moving and compelling to see the difference The Reader makes to thousands of vulnerable people through its simple model of shared reading groups. We know there is scope to expand The Reader’s important work more extensively across the country and are delighted to support the organisation to achieve that growth.”

MFS_9275Our shared reading groups take place in a variety of settings around the UK including prisons, mental health centres, care homes and local communities. The simple model of reading aloud in facilitated groups is proven to support positive mental health and wellbeing, combating isolation, calming aggression and helping people with dementia. Through the act of reading on a regular basis with others, people can connect with a better understanding of themselves, realise opportunities they might not have thought possible and make changes in their lives.

We’re already helping people like Angela to do this:

Angela from Liverpool has bipolar affected disorder and experienced a full nervous breakdown three years ago. She joined a group at The Reader a year ago and then started volunteering on reception at our head office. As a result of building her confidence and experience, she is about to begin a paid job.

Angela says: “I saw my consultant for the first time in 6 months the other day and I don’t think he could believe the change in me. If I was putting percentages on my progress over the last year I would say 30% natural improvement and pills and 70% down to coming here. If I hadn’t found The Reader, who knows what I would be doing now?”

Thanks to our continued funding from SBT, we’ll be able to help even more people in many more places across the UK.

To find out more about how SBT are helping social enterprises around the country, including The Reader, to scale up the impact they make, visit their website.

Sheffield celebrates Shared Reading

November 17, 2015

Last month, just days after our 2015 AGM, we headed to Sheffield for a special event showcasing and celebrating the impact of shared reading. We’ve been working with Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust since 2011, and for the last year have had a dedicated Reader-in-Residence delivering shared reading sessions across the trust in inpatient, community and primary care settings.

Sheffield cakeStaff and volunteers from across the trust, including those who have lived experience of mental health, joined us to share their personal experiences of shared reading and the differences it has made to them both personally and professionally, in their jobs and communities in which they live and work. As well as hearing these powerful first-hand testimonials, there was the chance to read a selection of poems collectively – and enjoy a slice of specially-made Reader cake!

Along with our Founder and Director Jane Davis, Katie McAllister, The Reader’s Development Manager for Mental Health, was also in the audience:

“Mia Bajin, the Patient and Public Involvement Manager at SHSC, who was instrumental in Sheffield commissioning a Read to Lead course way back in 2011, talked about the history of the project and about how much has been read since it started  – it’s almost the equivalent of reading every Shakespeare play 15 times!

After hearing from our Reader-in-Residence about the range of groups that have been set up and supported by The Reader in the past year, we got to hear from Read to Lead trained mental health and social care professionals and how the training has impacted trust service users directly through the delivery of shared reading.

“You learn to carve a space, and people see an opening to say what they want to say” – Read to Lead trained member of staff at Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust

“The words, they’re lovely” – reaction from a dementia patient reading within Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust

We broke out into three shared reading sessions in which we read Wood Grouse on a High Promontory Overlooking Canada by David Guterson (thanks Shaun!) and Evening by Rainer Maria Rilke. Finally, we heard from Trust Chief Executive Kevan Taylor who talked about his own personal reading experiences, and what reading meant to him. Of our work he said, “the evidence base [for shared reading] is clearly there”.

“There’s an Emily Dickinson poem for every day of your life” – Kevan Taylor, Chief Executive of Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust

At the centre of the event was the work we have been doing within SHSC for the last year. Shaun Lawrence is Reader-in-Residence for Sheffield:

“On the day, I was caught up in the moment and was kept busy hosting the event and speaking about my experiences, so much of the morning was, I confess, rather a blur. For me the event was the culmination of a year’s work which began in November 2014 as I joined The Reader, since when I have been working to develop my skills as a shared reading practitioner alongside building up a solid relationship with colleagues in the Trust, in order to establish and develop my groups.

I was thrilled to realise the depth of feeling for the work that I have undertaken at SHSC over the past year. I got a real sense of the strength of the connections that had been made between people on the wards, and of the lasting effects of the shared reading groups which extended beyond each of the weekly sessions. I was also delighted by the sense of pride in the project that was evident in the volunteers, ward colleagues and recent Read to Lead trainees here at SHSC, and hearing the testimonials from them was for me, a real joy. Indeed, to hear first-hand experiences from staff about the impact of those groups on service users, and also with staff alike, really brought home to me the difference that the work of The Reader is making to people’s lives across the Trust.

I was very proud to be able to celebrate the success of my project in Sheffield and felt that having Jane present to hear the heart-warming testimonials from long standing volunteer readers was a validation in the trust that The Reader placed in me as a remote worker.”

Congratulations to Shaun and everyone involved in making shared reading such a success in Sheffield.

Featured Poem: Inversnaid by Gerard Manley Hopkins

November 16, 2015

Always a favourite to read aloud with his special liking for sprung rhythm, this week’s Featured Poem is a choice from Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hopkins visited Inversnaid – located on the east bank of Loch Lomond in Scotland – and this poem was the product, evoking the wild and untouched wonders of nature. As Autumn turns into Winter, it’s a particularly good one to read if you’re planning any seasonal walks and adventures before the frosts set in.


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Reading with Looked After Children in Wirral: Pudsey approved!

November 12, 2015
Say hello to a certain someone our Wirral team discovered on their travels...

Say hello to a certain someone our Wirral team discovered on their travels…

BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal takes place this Friday, so there’s no need to be alarmed if you spot a sudden surge of fluffy yellow bear ear-wearing individuals. Just last week, we happened to come across a VIB (very special Bear) at MediaCityUK…

Earlier this year, we were awarded a grant from Children in Need to fund our project reading with Looked After Children in Wirral. Our previous work with Looked After Children across Merseyside has shown how reading for pleasure can bring a variety of benefits, not least in creating a safe environment in which young people can engage with literature that relates to them.

“I love this, I want it to go on forever” – a Looked After Child reading with us as part of our pilot project

By reading one-on-one with a project worker or volunteer in a familiar setting, children are able to expand their imaginations and discover new possibilities. Not only does our shared reading approach encourage a love for reading for the sheer fun of doing so, but also allows young people to reflect on the experiences of the characters they encounter, stimulating a greater sense of empathy and understanding.  Making children excited about books in their own space often gives the incentive of wanting to read more, and so we’ve found that confidence with literacy increases, as does general self-esteem.

For some children, reading can offer a support unavailable elsewhere – a way of getting to grips with their emotions and providing a safe domain through which their voice can be heard, and in some cases found. The connection between reading and wellbeing allows for a retreat from the stresses of everyday life and an escape into another world. This was true for Liam, who took part in one of our previous projects:

“The support of reading together was apparent another week, when Liam looked like he’d been crying and his carer said he had not had a good day in school. He did not want to talk to me about it, but he did feel like reading. We got absorbed in the story together, and by the end he looked much happier. I asked him if he felt better than before the session and he said he did, which was very rewarding.”

Over the next three years, we’ll be able to create more of these reading experiences for over 100 young people aged between 5-15 on the Wirral thanks to the funding received by Children in Need. We’ve already started to recruit volunteers who will be matched with a child for one-to-one reading sessions in foster and care homes. After six months, young people will be able to continue by taking part in group sessions with their peers, encouraging friendships to be formed as well as their love of reading to grow.

For more information about our Wirral Looked After Children project, see our website or contact Charlie Kelly, Looked After Children Volunteer Coordinator:

Read more of our Reader Stories from Looked After Children in some of our previous projects:

W’s Reader Story
P’s Reader Story

Featured Poem: The Going by Thomas Hardy

November 10, 2015

This week’s Featured Poem comes from Thomas Hardy, a deeply moving and emotional piece and one of the elegy poems Hardy composed after the death of his first wife Emma in 1912 – a previous Featured Poem, The Voice, is another one of these, and it is quite clear to see how they follow in the same vein.

The references to light and darkness, as well as the repeated questions to the departed Emma, all speak of a feeling of despair, but it is perhaps the words that evoke many different incarnations of a sense of something as fleeting – ‘one glimpse‘, ‘the softest call’, ‘think for a breath‘ – that are most poignant and most regrettable.

In issue 59 of The Reader – previewed here yesterday – Philip Davis writes on another of Hardy’s elegy poems, The Shadow on the Stone. In his discussion, he finds what can often be at the root of the realisation inherent in shared reading for people experiencing difficulties:

“Most literature is made out of what is lost, missing, created from trouble, in need of a help that often does not come.”

Where creation comes, it follows that understanding – or a sense of it – will too.

The Going

Why did you give no hint that night
That quickly after the morrow’s dawn,
And calmly, as if indifferent quite,
You would close your term here, up and be gone
Where I could not follow
With wing of swallow
To gain one glimpse of you ever anon!

Never to bid good-bye
Or lip me the softest call,
Or utter a wish for a word, while I
Saw morning harden upon the wall,
Unmoved, unknowing
That your great going
Had place that moment, and altered all.

Why do you make me leave the house
And think for a breath it is you I see
At the end of the alley of bending boughs
Where so often at dusk you used to be;
Till in darkening dankness
The yawning blankness
Of the perspective sickens me!

You were she who abode
By those red-veined rocks far West,
You were the swan-necked one who rode
Along the beetling Beeny Crest,
And, reining nigh me,
Would muse and eye me,
While Life unrolled us its very best.

Why, then, latterly did we not speak,
Did we not think of those days long dead,
And ere your vanishing strive to seek
That time’s renewal? We might have said,
“In this bright spring weather
We’ll visit together
Those places that once we visited.”

Well, well! All’s past amend,
Unchangeable. It must go.
I seem but a dead man held on end
To sink down soon. . . . O you could not know
That such swift fleeing
No soul foreseeing–
Not even I–would undo me so!

Thomas Hardy


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