08 November 2021

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The Reader is a national charity that brings thousands of people together on a weekly basis to experience the life-enriching power of literature through Shared Reading.

Shared Reading was developed by The Reader’s founder and director, Jane Davis, over 20 years ago as a result of her own experience of literature as both ‘a life-saver and life-maker’.

Small groups of people meet on a weekly basis, either in person, online or over the phone, to read aloud from a book, short story or poem. Someone – usually a friendly volunteer – leads the group, providing a warm welcome and something specially chosen to read.

Participants are free to join in the reading and conversation, or just sit back and listen. The groups are a great way for people to connect – to new literature, their own thoughts and each other. Long-lasting friendships are made, and health and wellbeing are improved.

Before the pandemic, over 700 Shared Reading groups and one-to-ones took place every week. Led by 1,000 volunteers, there were groups in community centres, libraries, care homes, hospitals, prisons, secure units, workplaces and in high street cafes around Britain, and at The Reader’s home in Calderstones Park, Liverpool.

Each group is a vital means of wellbeing support for people of all ages and life situations and helps to reduce social isolation and build stronger communities.

One group member said: "Through the literature, I have been able to share my worries and concerns, as well as my joys and successes, in a safe environment. Whatever the weather, whatever the season, going to the group is an uplifting and exciting prospect."

Thanks to the support of People’s Postcode Lottery players, Shared Reading groups are free and open to all, and more volunteers are now trained and leading groups in their communities.

During lockdown, The Reader used funding from players to adapt its services quickly so that it could continue to support people through the crisis when the connection, comfort and meaning offered by Shared Reading was needed more than ever.

Under the banner ‘The Reader at Home’, the charity created new and exciting ways of bringing great literature to life with Facebook Live readings, Shared Reading over the phone and printed activity packs for care home residents.

Funding also helps to support a programme of wellbeing events and creative activities at The Reader’s home at Calderstones which provides people with more opportunities to share the same page, to find meaning and a sense of belonging.

Over £2.2 million has been raised for The Reader by players.