We chatted to Natalie Turnbull, our programme manager for Reading Friends in Scotland, and here’s what she had to say. 

What is your favourite thing about Reading Friends?

I love that Reading Friends is community led and has its roots in social activism. I’m finding it immensely uplifting to learn about the various Reading Friends projects all over the country. It’s fantastic to find out about the people and volunteers who are involved and all the new friendships being created. It’s so heartening and affirming when people choose to spend some of their free time bringing happiness to others, particularly when reading is such a simple way to do it.

Why did you get involved with Reading Friends?

I’ve helped to start a number of community literacy programmes across the UK all aimed at encouraging a love of reading in the early years. I believe that reading for pleasure is one of the most beneficial things a person can do. It’s like taking a mini holiday from reality – it is engaging, empowering, transformative, healing and relaxing. I want to use and build on my experience to get more people reading, talking and feeling connected to each other, their communities and themselves. I feel it is just as important in later years to reap the manifold rewards of reading for pleasure.

What is the best book you’ve ever read?

There are so many covering so many genres! One that stays with me for its power to depict a dramatic sense of place is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The dialogue, which I had found quite difficult to read, finally started to click and make sense to me when I put on a Yorkshire accent in my head! I had been living in Yorkshire for a number of years, so I think that helped.

What do you like to read?

I’m really enjoying reading biographies at the moment – Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is my current read and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I also like books on practical matters like cookery and gardening, and as a mum of two small people I enjoy a good humorous account of parenting! I like fiction too, but generally when I’m on holiday and have more time to get into a good story.

If you could try, or learn, something new, what would it be?

I would like to learn to play the piano.

What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

Music – I do enjoy a wee dance, whether it’s a gig (my last concert was Kylie Minogue at Edinburgh Castle) a ceilidh at a wedding or a silly kitchen disco with the kids. I just find it fun!

What is your favourite thing to do??

Aside from enjoying family days out with my husband and two young children, I enjoy gardening, yoga and running.

Where is your favourite place to be??

On an island with a mixture of sea and mountains to look at. Any island will do – there are certainly plenty of pretty islands in Scotland and I particularly like Arran. A tropical island would be nice too, if slightly more unlikely!

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?

I can speak French and German. And I have met Dolly Parton several times…I used to work for her children’s book gifting programme, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. She is genuinely a very lovely, grounded person and is incredibly hard working. She also reads extensively – she’s definitely a gifted story-teller judging by her music!

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