Through our global Shared Reading movement, powered by 1,000 volunteers and many partnerships, we bring thousands of people together every month through weekly reading aloud groups. We use literature to connect people to themselves and others, develop a shared language for our inner lives, and spark the social and personal change needed in the world.
Episode Nine: All I Want for Christmas
‘Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it's much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!’ Neil Gaiman
If you need inspiration for the perfect bookish gift for a particular person, give this episode a listen. Whether it’s for someone who loves the great outdoors, or for someone who has cared for you this year, or for some bright spark who is always making, doing and creating – Reader staff have recommendations of great books to suit them all. We also have recommendations from the Founder/Director of The Reader, Jane Davis, and from the writer and critic Tomiwa Owolade, who we’ll be hearing from again in a future episode of this podcast. And if you listen right to the end, there’s a festive poem for you.
Merry Christmas to one and all!
Christmas Gift Guide 1: For the person who finds respite in nature
Christmas Gift Guide 2: For the busy person who needs 15 minutes of calm
Christmas Gift Guide 3: For the person who stands by when things get tough
Christmas Gift Guide 4: For the person who teaches, encourages and tries to lead the way
Christmas Gift Guide 5: For the person who writes, creates, experiments, and thinks differently
Buy the books from The Reader Shop at Bookshop.org.
More gift ideas from The Reader
The Reader magazine subscription offer
Read some of Tomiwa Owolade’s articles on Unherd.com
‘For Maia’ by Gary Johnson
Episode Eight: Making Space
When our Young Person’s Mentor Greg spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live on 30 September about Shared Reading, many listeners wrote in to say it was the most inspiring thing they’d ever heard on the radio. We caught up with Greg for an extended conversation about his role at The Reader and to hear more about how Shared Reading fits into this and into Greg’s own story so far. We’ll also hear from another Reader staff member, Sue, who reads a poem by Wordsworth and talks about the powerful and unexpected sense of calm that this old poem can create in her groups.
The Reader on BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC Radio 5 Live Word Matters project
Young Person’s Mentoring Scheme at The Reader
‘Love After Love’ by Derek Walcott from The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 published by Faber & Faber. We have applied for permission of the publishers FSG to read this poem here.
‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802’ by William Wordsworth
‘Spiderweb’ by Kay Ryan Kay Ryan's poem 'Spiderweb' is from her collection Odd Blocks: New & Selected Poems published by Carcanet. We are grateful for the kind permission of the publishers to read it here.
Episode Seven: What If?
The Reader Podcast is back after an extended break with an episode about being bold, taking risks and keeping an eye out for the unexpected. Gill Smith worked at The Reader’s Storybarn, our interactive play space for children and young people, when it opened in 2016. Since then, Gill’s gone on to enjoy success as an illustrator – her first collaboration, a picture book of Victoria Hislop’s Maria’s Island, was released in June. Gill chatted with Annie from The Reader about reading, where she finds inspiration, and she shared some valuable advice for budding creatives out there.
Maria’s Island by Victoria Hislop, illustrated by Gill Smith, is available now from Walker Books.
We’ve been busy over the summer producing The Reader magazine and a new anthology for National Poetry Day, The Road Not Taken.
‘What If This Road’ by Sheenagh Pugh With thanks to Seren Books for permission to use the poem here and in the anthology The Road Not Taken.
Read the rest of the short story ‘The Lumber Room’ by Saki here.
Episode Six: Stories of Walking Away
What makes a poem great for Shared Reading? Again, we take a closer look at a single poem, this time Cecil Day Lewis’ ‘Walking Away’, and hear stories about how it what this poem has meant to group members who have read it together in a Shared Reading setting.
By Cecil Day-Lewis
It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with the leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
The hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.
I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this programme, it might help to talk about it. A Samaritan is ready to listen, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org.
The Reader Bookshelf
Find out more about Cecil Day Lewis at the Poetry Foundation
Find out more about The Reader – donate,get involved,join a Shared Reading Group
Episode Five: The Languages We Know This Landscape By
The title of this episode comes from a poem by award-winning poet, short-story writer, essayist and novelist Kei Miller. Kei was The Reader’s guest at an online event earlier this year to celebrate Sefton’s year as Liverpool’s Borough of Culture, when he read poems from his 2014 collection The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, and spoke about the inspiration for this collection and his wide-ranging work. You can hear part of the recording of that event in this episode, as well as listening to Erin from The Reader sharing another ‘tried and tested’ poem, ‘Interludes’ by Debjani Chatterjee. Both Kei Miller’s poems and ‘Interludes’ are included on The Reader’s ‘Walking the Earth’ Bookshelf and they allow us to explore ideas of how we use language and poetry to understand landscapes both around and within us.
The Reader Bookshelf
The Reader magazine, Issue 71 – featuring an interview with Dr Iona Heath
Kei Miller’s author page on the Carcanet Press website
Kei Miller’s new essay collection, Things I Have Withheld, at Bookshop.org
Debjani Chatterjee’s author page on the Royal Literary Fund website
‘Ulysses’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Find out more about The Reader – donate,get involved, join a Shared Reading Group
Episode Four: The Kindness of Strangers
Over the years, staff and volunteers at The Reader have learned that there are five essential values or behaviours that are key to a great Shared Reading experience and one of them is: be kind. The Reader relies on the kindness of authors, who volunteer their time and allow us to use their work; we rely on the kindness of those who begin as strangers and become volunteers running Shared Reading groups around the country; and we rely on the belief that all of us, however different, can tap into a shared humanity through reading together. In this episode, we hear from two authors who have been great supporters of The Reader’s work: Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Joanne Harris. Frank reads his ‘Eulogy for the Lost’, broadcast by Culture Liverpool and BBC Radio Merseyside in March to mark a year since the start of lockdown. Joanne Harris speaks about her novel Orfeia, about grief, loss and the power of stories, and we listen in to a National Prison Radio Shared Reading discussion of one particular story by Joanne, ‘Tea With the Birds’, in which an encounter between two strangers proves transformative.
Liverpool Together: Reflecting on a year of lockdown at the Culture Liverpool website
Frank Cottrell-Boyce on Instagram
Orfeia by Joanne Harris
Jigs and Reels - short stories by Joanne Harris
Listen to more episodes of The Reader on National Prison Radio
Find out more about The Reader – donate, get involved, join a Shared Reading Group
Someone who cares
Visiting a Reader session is like being wrapped in a warm hug . Everyone welcomes you with extra warmth in their smiles You feel at home and relax with the literature despite it often being challenging and you feel safe to comment or not. You very quickly realise that no one is going to criticise you or your opinions. The group listen to each other with respect over a cup of tea or coffee, sometimes with cake or biscuits. The session flies by and when it is over it feels that you have been taken on a special trip to a different world. You walk away happy and relaxed.
You suddenly understand that there are like minded people there with very different life experiences who have formed a magical friendship that can last for years. You too will make amazing friendships in time.
I know this because it happened to me.