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Featured Poem: The Sea Shell by William Wordsworth

June 29, 2015

It seems like the weather will take a turn for the better this week, and this particular poem by William Wordsworth is a great one to read to compliment the summer days – even if you can’t make it to a beach and go shell-hunting, it’s bound to bring back fond memories of ‘sonorous cadences’ and more besides.

Wordsworth is a popular choice amongst our shared reading groups, with members commenting that ‘there is something about Wordsworth!’. We would definitely have to agree, and this poem speaks to that notion loud and clear.

The Sea Shell

A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
Of inland ground, applying to his ear
The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell;
To which, in silence hushed, his very soul
Listened intensely; and his countenance soon
Brightened with joy; for murmurings from within
Were heard, sonorous cadences! whereby
To his belief, the monitor expressed
Mysterious union with his native sea.
Even in such a shell the Universe itself
Is to the ear of Faith: and there are times,
I doubt not, when to you it doth impart
Authentic tidings of invisible things;
Of ebb and flow and ever-during power;
And central peace, subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation.

William Wordsworth

“What light through yonder window breaks?”: Romeo and Juliet arrives soon!

June 25, 2015

Lovers everywhere pay heed – The Globe on Tour’s production of Romeo and Juliet is around the corner, with just over a month to go until Shakespeare’s most famous and most tragic lovers arrive to take the stage in Liverpool at Calderstones Mansion House.

So far the cast have brought the show far and wide since they opened at Theatre Clywd in Wales, from Austria to Norway to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. They find themselves back on home soil in Stoke-on-Trent this week, and we’re hoping the sun will keep shining to recreate the beautiful scenes seen from their performances at the Brighton Festival in May.

R&J 2

The cast of Romeo and Juliet take the stage at Brighton Open Air Theatre (credit: Vic Frankowski)

R&J 3

Cassie Layton as Juliet with The Globe on Tour at Brighton Open Air Theatre (credit: Vic Frankowski)

If you’re yearning to know more, The Globe on Tour has lots of goodies on their website, including video trailers and interviews with Sam Valentine (Romeo) and Cassie Layton (Juliet). Sam was also quizzed on Twitter in a special #AskRomeo Q&A recently – no need to fear about missing out, as all of the questions and answers, featuring exclusive pictures of the cast on their travels, have been compiled in this handy Storify:

Romeo and Juliet will be at the Garden Theatre at Calderstones Mansion House on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th July (matinee and evening performances on Saturday 25th). Tickets cost £20 and can be booked from The Globe’s website or by calling The Globe Box Office on 020 7401 9919.

To keep up to date with Romeo and Juliet on their travels, follow @GlobeOnTour

 

Recommended Reads: Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman

June 23, 2015

buffalo soldier coverOur latest Recommended Read comes from Joe Mackrell, who joined us at The Reader Organisation at our HQ in Liverpool for work experience last week. We couldn’t let him go without sharing his favourite book of the moment, a historical novel charting the experiences of a young African-American slave set free at the end of the American Civil War. ‘Freedom’ is a limited term for a girl in her situation, however, with injustice and inequality at every possible turn…

Here’s Joe to tell us more:

Buffalo Soldier is the emotional story of a slave called Charlotte after the American Civil War. She is forced to choose between working in the coal mines or disguising herself as a man and joining the army. The book explores Charlotte’s feelings after being freed by Abraham Lincoln. How Charlotte deals with the death of her two best friends early in the book and the death of all her friends later in the book is fascinating. Also Charlotte is haunted by the memories of her master’s son which shows just how horrible life was as a slave. I thoroughly enjoyed this story of love and hardship and would recommend it to any other 15 year old boy as its historical context and heart-wrenching plot make it a really interesting and enjoyable read.

Buffalo Soldier, Tanya Landman, Walker (2014)

Buffalo Soldier has just won the prestigious 2015 Carnegie Medal for an outstanding new book for children and young people. The first chapter is available to read on The Guardian website, so why not whet your appetite?
http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/ng-interactive/2015/jun/22/extract-carnegie-winner-2015-buffalo-soldier-tanya-landman

Featured Poem: Pleasant Sounds by John Clare

June 22, 2015
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The season of Summer is officially here, and we’re hoping we’ll get to spend more time out of doors enjoying the sunshine in the next couple of months, especially at our HQ in the gorgeous Calderstones Park. On a summer’s day there are lots of sights and sounds to be heard – particularly birds chirping, dogs barking and the happy shouts of children, but what are the other typical sounds of summer: an ice cream van chiming in the distance, water splashing (hopefully not from the rain)? Perhaps even the sound of silence as you seek a peaceful getaway.

This week we’re keeping our ears out for these pleasant sounds, and we think this poem from John Clare might just help.

Pleasant Sounds

The rustling of leaves under the feet in woods and under hedges;
The crumpling of cat-ice and snow down wood-rides, narrow lanes, and every street causeway;
Rustling through a wood or rather rushing, while the wind halloos in the oak-toop like thunder;
The rustle of birds’ wings startled from their nests or flying unseen into the bushes;
The whizzing of larger birds overhead in a wood, such as crows, puddocks, buzzards;
The trample of robins and woodlarks on the brown leaves, and the patter of squirrels on the green moss;
The fall of an acorn on the ground, the pattering of nuts on the hazel branches as they fall from ripeness;
The flirt of the groundlark’s wing from the stubbles- how sweet such pictures on dewy mornings, when the dew flashes from its brown feathers.

John Clare

HRH the Duchess of Cornwall enjoys more shared reading

June 18, 2015
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and Frank Field MP join the Read It Together group at Manor Children's Centre, Birkenhead

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and Frank Field MP join the Read It Together group at Manor Children’s Centre, Birkenhead

A very special royal guest has returned to share some reading with us…

Last month Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall became patron of the Foundation Years Trust, a trust aimed at providing an early years intervention for children and families most at risk from the effects of poverty. The Reader Organisation works with Foundation Years Trust as part of the Birkenhead Foundation Years Project, supporting families through pregnancy to when children start full-time at school. Alongside other initiatives, we provide Read It Together groups for parents and children to enjoy stories together and develop a love of reading that will contribute towards a child’s learning and increased development.

As part of the recent Royal visit to Merseyside with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the Duchess made a visit to Manor Primary School in Birkenhead where initiatives from the Birkenhead Foundation Years Project are taking place. After a visit to the Bump-Start group, the Duchess spent time at our Read It Together group for parents, carers and children aged 0-5 at Manor Children’s Centre, along with Frank Field MP, Chair of Foundation Years Trust and Zoe Munby, Director of the Birkenhead Foundation Years Project.

Little boy receives flower from The DuchessThe group has been running weekly every Thursday afternoon since September 2014, letting children discover reading with their parents and carers through story and rhyme sessions. As children spend time with play workers, adults get the time to read together for themselves in a relaxed space, encouraging reading to continue amongst the family.

Amanda Boston, our Reader in Residence at Birkenhead Foundation Years Project, led the group in reading Owl Babies by Martin Waddell along with some songs. Following the children’s group, the Duchess joined in the adjoining 10 minute session especially for the adult members to read and discuss One Another’s Light by Brian Patten. As an avid reader and supporter of literacy it was wonderful that the Duchess could take part in the shared reading experience.

It’s not the Duchess’s first time finding out about shared reading – in July last year she dropped into one of our groups for people living with dementia while officially reopening Exeter Library. We feel like a Royal Reading Revolution could be about to take place…

For more information on our work reading with children and young people, see our website and the Foundation Years Trust.

 

Featured Poem: Present in Absence by John Donne

June 15, 2015
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This week’s Featured Poem is a selection from John Donne, considered to be the founder of the Metaphysical Poets of the 17th century. Donne’s style was known for its vibrancy, inventiveness and paradoxes, one of which is set up in the very title of this poem – how can we think of ‘absence’ as ‘present’, and how does time ‘settle’ and also ‘tarry’?

Donne’s poetry was revived in the 20th centrury by poets including W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot, influencing many of the modernists of the era. Ahead of our latest course looking at the works of Eliot, it’s worth bearing in mind the verse of the man he deemed to ‘possess a mechanism of sensibility which could devour any kind of experience’.

Present in Absence

Absence, hear thou my protestation
Against thy strength,
Distance, and length;
Do what thou canst for alteration:
For hearts of truest mettle
Absence doth join, and Time doth settle.

Who loves a mistress of such quality,
His mind hath found
Affection’s ground
Beyond time, place, and all mortality.
To hearts that cannot vary
Absence is present, Time doth tarry.

My senses want their outward motion
Which now within
Reason doth win,
Redoubled by her secret notion:
Like rich men that take pleasure
In hiding more than handling treasure.

By absence this good means I gain,
That I can catch her,
Where none can watch her,
In some close corner of my brain:
There I embrace and kiss her;
And so enjoy her and none miss her.

John Donne

Volunteers in the Spotlight

June 10, 2015

Last week was Volunteers Week, and we had a great week celebrating the efforts and achievements of our many volunteers around the country here on The Reader Online. But we’re happy to report that there were some special goings-on in the offline world too.

Our Barnet Volunteers and Coordinator Paul Higgins with actress Claire Skinner at the Tricycle Theatre, discussing 'The Father'

Our Barnet Volunteers and Coordinator Paul Higgins with actress Claire Skinner at the Tricycle Theatre, discussing ‘The Father’

Over in London, our Barnet Volunteer team enjoyed a trip to the theatre to watch the acclaimed play The Father at the Tricycle Theatre as Volunteers Week started. They were even lucky enough to catch up once the curtain fell with one of the leads of the cast…
Volunteer Claire Sive shares the experience of the night:

Wow! Eleven volunteers from The Reader stepped down from the theatrical roller-coaster which was ‘The Father’ into The Tricycle Theatre bar to gather their equilibrium before being joined by Claire Skinner, Kenneth Cranham’s co-star in this production of Florian Zeller’s 2014 Moliere award-winning play.

The Father, “loosing all my leaves” – as the stage lost all its furniture – and his daughter grapple with extreme pain exposed by unstable fractured narratives, repetitions betraying anxiety underscored by interchanging actors, each scene framed by LED lights that dazzled, accompanied by a piano maddeningly in search of its tune. Skinner alluded to the pauses in the script causing as much concern as the words. Indeed as the stories told by the characters to describe their situations broke down, the emotion drained through the gaps.

The Reader volunteers leading shared reading in dementia settings know how productive those gaps can be to discover new thoughts, meanings and recollections stirred by the texts we bring. It was a privilege and cautionary to viscerally experience the spaces between relatives negotiating family myths, tensions and desires and to renew our respect for our clients, their carers and their families.

Our Admin Assistant Volunteers and Merseyside Volunteer team looking great on camera

Our Admin Assistant Volunteers and Merseyside Volunteer team looking great on camera

Our HQ at Calderstones Mansion House played host to a special lunch last Wednesday celebrating our Admin Assistant volunteers working on the Big Lottery funded Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme. A wonderful afternoon was had by all, and Christopher Lynn, one of our Volunteer Assistants on the project, fills us in:

A knees up was the least we could do to thank our office-based Admin Assistant volunteers for all the brilliant work they do week in week out; maintaining and managing resources for our Care Home Readers who share reading with older people across Merseyside. The whole thing was a Reader collaboration, with the café providing a delicious lunch, photographs and gift presentations, as well as being treated to a fascinating tour of the park in the shining sun.

‘At every thought and deed to clear the haze
Out of our eyes, considering only this,
What man, what life, what love, what beauty is,
This is to live and win the final praise’
– extract from ‘Outlook’ by Archibald Lampman

We opened with a shared reading of ‘Outlook’ by Archibald Lampman that inspired many thoughtful contributions and brilliant group discussion. But the poem planted one seed that blossomed into a particularly satisfying comment from one of our longstanding volunteers, L. During our tour through the park she said:

‘It feels goods to be appreciated! It’s like in the poem ‘to win the final praise’; it’s like what The Reader have done today, and also it’s important to praise yourself for all the work you do – that’s the ‘final praise’; to praise yourself. We enjoy volunteering, and The Reader gets something from it too – it works both ways’.

A big thanks goes out once more to our volunteers, and we’re thrilled they’ve been able to share in such memorable experiences.

If you want to find out more about volunteering with us and to see current opportunities, visit our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering

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