In Rochdale, a weekly Reading Friends ‘Mums, Bumps and Babies’ Zoom group offers new and expectant parents the chance to share stories, ask questions and make new friends.
Getting to know each other
Rochdale Libraries have welcomed new and expectant mums to this group by linking up with local healthcare providers and promoting the group via their Facebook page and through flyers sent out to health visitors and midwives. The Reading Friends participants were gifted with a welcome pack in advance of the first session which had stationery, tea bags, coffee, biscuits and four books: one fiction and one non-fiction for the parent to read and two more for them to read to their baby. The first session involved open and honest conversation about the participants’ experiences of being pregnant and having a baby during a pandemic.
The Reading Befriender described the first meeting as:
“Very emotional […] as the ladies talked about the sense of loneliness of having to experience pregnancy or having a new baby during such strange times. We also discussed the books in the pack and the importance of taking time out for themselves to relax.”
Sharing stories and experiences
For the following week, the group was encouraged to read the first chapter of one of the books they had been gifted and to take this time reading as an opportunity to relax and to recharge. Some of the group members experienced anxiety throughout their pregnancy and said that the group supports them by allowing them to talk to others in the same position and know they are not alone.
“We shared our favourite parts of the book we are reading at the moment and talked about how relatable it is to our own lives!” Reading Friends Coordinator
Participants became more relaxed and confident, particularly in speaking about reading and in sharing their stories and experiences as time went on. Conversations have revolved around favourite books to read to their babies, sparking lots of conversation and recommendations. Some participants had not previously been library users and became new library members.
“By being part of the reading friends group it has not only helped my get my confidence back up, gave me something to look forward to on a Wednesday, it has given me the opportunity to take up reading again and have some “me” time. I’ve also been able to meet new friends who have been in a similar situation to myself.” Reading Friends Participant
Many participants have said how this Reading Friends group has been exactly what they’ve needed, especially due to the absence of Mum and Baby Groups during the pandemic. The group has hosted special workshops, including Baby First Aid training, a weaning workshop and has welcomed a visitor from Booktrust to talk about the positive impact that reading to a baby can have. Thanks to the group, participants have built an invaluable support network, formed new friendships and know that there are people they can turn to for chats and advice. Other methods of support have been set up by the group members, including a WhatsApp group so they can communicate outside of the Zoom session, share advice and post links with helpful online sessions and classes. As the weeks have gone on, the group has become more like friends.
“Groups like this are so important to new parents and I’m very grateful to Amy and the library service for recognising that this was a much-needed resource during this time.” Reading Friends participant
Please contact Library.Service@rochdale.gov.uk to find out more about Reading Friends in Rochdale.