This is a guest blog post by Megg Hewlett, Project Worker for Get Into Reading London. Over the last four years she has established and run the Book Break reading groups in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
It’s four years since the first Book Break shared reading groups began in Kensington and Chelsea. Since then we’ve read with people in many settings including libraries, hospitals, mental health services, schools, alcohol and drug services, community centres and workplaces.
Book Break is delivered by The Reader Organisation, an award-winning social enterprise working to connect people with great literature and each other, in partnership with Kensington and Chelsea libraries. There’s more information about Get Into Reading and The Reader Organisation on their website.
We create places where personal responses to books are freely shared. Our projects allow us to reach a diverse range of people, readers and non readers, extending the individual experience of literature and building strong mutually supportive communities that read together.
“You need it, you just don’t know you need it.”
Book Break groups are stimulating, friendly and non-pressured. They provide stability, support and enjoyment. All texts are read aloud so anyone can get involved – readers and non readers alike.
Groups are led by trained project workers and volunteers, meeting each week to read books and poems together in locations such as care homes, libraries, prisons, mental health centres, community centres, schools, hostels, refugee centres and workplaces. We read aloud, slowly, taking time over each text, allowing thoughts, connections and understanding to emerge.
“It’s not just about reading or getting to know the story. It’s about having our opinions about things as well.”
Members can choose to join in, or not, and at times the reading will stop to allow some talk about parts of the text, discussing what it might mean, or reflect on similar experiences of their own. The effects are subtle, and profound.
“Sometimes you can see different people having different ideas. You take something one way and someone else might take it a different way, and it makes you think. You respect other people’s opinions.”
A relaxed, friendly atmosphere is created in each group. Over time, people build up a confidence that enables them to tell their own stories, as well as to forge close relationships with fellow readers.
For some readers, this prompts new aspirations, and the searching out of further learning and support that will help rebuild their lives. For others, their reading group is a lifeline, helping to keep them on a more even keel. For all, it is a regular lift each week.
“It sets me up for the week”
Want to join one of our Book Break groups? Full details of when are where the groups meet can be found on the bibliotherapy page on Kensington and Chelsea libraries’ website. You can also contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Worker, Get Into Reading London