March 12 2019: This group is suspended temporarily
Ideally Reading Aloud groups have between 6-12 members. If you think it is something you would enjoy, contact the Leader, Julia, for details of the venue (near Town Green Station and Aughton Village Hall). Come along and try it. No-one will pressure you to read aloud or talk if you would rather just sit back and listen. I am sure you will enjoy the company and friendly banter as well as a good story.
Do read on to learn more about Julia’s experience of Reading Aloud.
Shared Reading Aloud was popularised by Dr Jane Davis, in the 1990s, when she was worked at the University of Liverpool. After initial research showed the health benefits and pleasure of shared reading, Jane founded “The Reader”, a charity which aims to connect people through literature. Research showing the benefits of shared reading in various specialist settings (Children and Young People, Social Isolation, Mental Health, Dementia, Criminal Justice) as well as open community groups has resulted in several large grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other agencies allowing The Reader to take over the Mansion House in Calderstones Park, Liverpool. The Mansion House is currently undergoing restoration and will offer group activities, training courses and residential accommodation. The Reader website is well worth looking at and is full of information on the Organisation, personal stories of group leaders and members, volunteer roles, training courses and plans for the Mansion House.
My Experience of Reading Aloud
The memory of hearing Jane Davis talk about her work in the 1990s stayed with me and The Reader was the first charity that I contacted when I retired in 2014. I was enthused by the taster days and quickly felt committed to the Organisation. Originally, I trained for the “Off The Page” project: reading with Michael, an eight year old with multiple health problems. I discovered the “Horrible Histories” and “Diary of a Wimpey Kid” books but Michael’s attention span was so short that often we played “I Spy” or “Hangman”. At the end of the six months assignment, I decided to do the “Read to Lead” course enabling me to lead adult groups. I found reading with adults much more enjoyable and relaxing – I never tire of the stories, the discussions, the dynamics of the different groups. I started with an open community group at Norris Green Library and in August 2017, the group moved to the Meadows Library in Maghull. Currently, we have 9-12 regular members, male and female, ranging from 18-90 years in age. The group is brilliant, really enjoyable, and I am proud that the group continues to meet even if I cannot attend. In 2017, I read with a group of recovering addicts in a secure unit. That was rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. I had to find stories outside my usual comfort zone and my knowledge and vocabulary increased! Currently, I read with residents in a local nursing home on a Friday afternoon, and my plan is to alternate sessions there with my U3A group.
Examples of Short Stories
Below are a selection of short stories that the Maghull group have shared recently and my notes on the discussions. I hope these abstracts give you a flavour of the type of stories we read. Generally, I choose the short story, and often a complementary poem, but I am open to suggestions from group members.
“If Only In My Dreams” by Marcus Sedgwick
The story told of life aboard the multinational space station circulating planet Earth. The sparse descriptions vividly made us feel part of it. We talked of loneliness; claustrophobia; boredom; unusual presents; story-telling; dreams and fears. We discussed life on other planets and destruction of the earth. Mike has an interest in astronomy and is well read on the planets and has followed the space programme avidly. Everyone was keen to listen to others’ views of life on other planets and Milky Ways; and what aliens may think of planet Earth. We really enjoyed the story and its stunning ending made Mike and Ann go “Wow” and become silent for several seconds.
“Loose Change” by Andrea Levy
This story focuses on topical issues around asylum seekers in a delicate, thought-provoking manner. The descriptions are vivid but concise prompting discussion on diverse topics including the reputation of Londoners being aloof; reasons why people are sometimes reluctant to become involved; art galleries as a refuge for the homeless; intriguing strangers and getting drawn into conversation; refugees being able to talk about their plight and ask for help; the “scale” of ones troubles; life going on around us when we feel in a crisis; and practicality versus idealism when challenged to help. The ending of the story was particularly poignant and made us wonder what we would do if faced with Laylor and her brother.
“Lamb To The Slaughter” by Roald Dahl
The story was vaguely familiar to everyone, with all except Lisa being fans of “Tales of the Unexpected” on TV. We talked of normal routine and the rising panic of realising this was not a normal evening; the “ostrich burying its head in the sand” way of coping with something bad; whether the wife deliberately killed the husband, or if she was in a “trance”; whether the murder was premeditated or not; covering up crimes and living with guilt; how people feign shock and grief in press conferences knowing they have murdered the “missing” person. We agreed this story was Roald Dahl at his best.