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Get into reading

11 June 2012

Last week’s Bookbrunch carried an interesting report on the recent Reader Organisation Conference. Jane Davis set up the first Get into Reading group in 2002, for young single mothers at a library in Birkenhead, Wirral, so creating a model that allows people of all reading abilities to come together to enjoy great literature, and to use that literature as a launch-pad for personal discussion.

Blake Morrison called it in an early article in the Guardian:. "The reading cure", and since then enlightened individuals from across the health and welfare spectrum have engaged with the Reader Organisation, seeking to write a new prescription for some of society’s most marginalised individuals and providing some remarkable case studies along the way. It has been remarkably successful, not just at getting people to read but in opening things up for them in many other ways.

The women at the conference were among the 60 staff and 80 volunteers working with the Reader Organisation (TRO) who "deliver" 326 Get Into Reading groups across the UK every week, taking books and poems into schools and supermarkets, libraries and care homes, prisons and hospitals, GP surgeries and hostels, basements and boardrooms, creating in each a shelter from the storm of daily life.

Research into reading projects with people suffering from dementia has revealed that 86% were less agitated, 86% had an improved mood, and 87% had better concentration after benefiting from Get into Reading. Research was cited showing that 85% of attendees end up befriending someone with whom they'd never have connected outside of a book group, so the meetings have an important socialising role to play..

The Programme advocates what they call Five Ways to Wellbeing - a sort of emotional "five a day" which grew out of Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing - are "Connect", "Be Active", "Take Notice", "Keep Learning", and "Give", not in terms of money but in terms of time and engagement in the community).