Lancashire Libraries run Reading Friends group telephone calls to Home Library Service Users. Their first group started with six participants in January and more than doubled to 14 by April 2021. It is a mixed ability group with some visually impaired members.
Reading materials, including three poems and one short story, were sent out in advance for people in the Home Library Service delivery without visual impairments. To be accessible to all participants, one person read the poems and short story aloud on the telephone call and explained them to the group. Following a library staff member reading aloud the poem ‘Darkling Thrush’ by Thomas Hardy, one blind Reading Friends participant recited a similar poem they knew from memory from their childhood. This resulted in a spontaneous conversation between participants, with one offering to help the blind participant in future sessions by reading materials aloud to them in advance so they could join in the sessions in the same way. The group enjoyed the session and talked about wanting to read more poems and do more shared reading in future sessions.
“This group of service users had become even more isolated due to the pandemic and this group has provided a reason for social interaction over the telephone for a small group of women. We use books as a spring board to start a conversation and see where it takes us… Interspersed with poetry to inspire conversation, the group has developed into more than a reading group, it has become a welcome break in people’s lives.” Reading Befriender
A place to share
In a following session, the group discovered that the same blind participant had not left their house for the past 12 months and had barely been out for the last three years due to issues related to their vision loss. The Reading Friends Coordinator described the group as a good place to raise issues such as this. In addition to support provided by the Reading Befrienders, other participants offered their support as well.
The sessions have made a difference to those involved and participants have started to take ownership of the group and lead conversations, with many new friendships forming. More groups have been set up for Home Library Service Users due to its success.
“Reading Friends lets people enjoy stories together no matter what their reading ability is, while also giving them the chance to make new friends during a time when this has been really difficult to do in person. Reading Friends has given our service users the opportunity to share their own stories, reminisce together, read things that is sometimes a little out of their normal comfort zone, and grow together as a group. Within a few short weeks it is clear to see that the groups have grown in confidence, and individuals are only going from strength to strength in such a supportive and friendly space.” Reading Friends Coordinator
Contact Amy Niven at Amy.Niven@lancashire.gov.uk if you’d like to find out more about Reading Friends in Lancashire.