Introducing The Reader Organisation

A few weeks ago I was chatting to one of our lovely work experience candidates when she mentioned that she’d been working for The Reader Organisation. I’d never heard of it before and what she told me had me so intrigued I had to find out more. So I had a look on their website and signed up to their daily updates (including specially selected poems). And when I saw they were doing a Reading Event in London, I quickly reserved a seat. The event entitled ‘The Reading Cure’ took place in the beautiful RIBA building, and was presented in coordination with the Mental Health Foundation.

Jane Davis, Director of The Reading Organisation, kicked off the talk. She’s an extraordinary woman with the most amazing passion for her project. She used to be an English lecturer and one day got so frustrated that great literature was only enjoyed by a tiny percentage of people that she decided to do something about it. With £500 donated by the university she started her very first Get Into Reading groups. A handful of people attended and Jane read aloud to them – a chance decision which she says has become a defining feature of the reading groups.

The purpose of the organisation is this:

The Reader Organisation is a charity dedicated to bringing about a Reading Revolution – this means great books reaching everybody – it’s our mission to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in sharing a wealth of literature. For us, reading is a force for social good that can build community and enhance lives.

A typical reading group might comprise of people with learning difficulties, physical disabilities or people who are homeless.

We’re turning non-readers into readers, one page at a time. What’s more, we’re connecting people, with each other, through books

Also at the event was Dr David Fearnley (Medical Director of Mersey Care NHS Trust) who talked to us about his group in a secure psychiatric unit at Mersey Care. He explained how, within reason, members of the reading group decide what they would like to read and these were there among their choices: Anton Chekov, Emily Brontë, Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie.

Just recently Jane was on Mariella Frostrup’s BBC Radio 4 Open Book programme talking to a listener who had not been able to concentrate on reading since a bereavement 15 years previously.

It seems there is no end to the healing power of reading – so don’t let anyone tell you it’s just pure escapism. And do spread the word about this incredible project which has helped so many people already. If you are interested in starting up a group yourself, I am sure they would love to hear from you. (Click on Become part of the Reading Revolution.)

Lara Crisp, Editor

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