Written by Cheshire East Libraries
Cheshire East Libraries have been delivering weekly Reading Friends telephone calls to local residents. They spoke with Gertrude, who has been taking part in Reading Friends since March.
Gertrude is 92, was born in Sandbach, and still lives in the town. She found out about Reading Friends from a leaflet her daughter was given at the library. She was interested in taking part as she is now nearly blind, so not able to see large print books. She used to go to a poetry group, but eyesight and hearing problems meant she found it difficult to fully participate.
A chance to reminisce
Gertrude has been taking part in Reading Friends since the middle of March. Initially, the sessions started with short stories and some poems until her Reading Befriender found out she likes Pam Ayres’ and Roger McGough’s writing so found some of their poems to read. At the start of each session, they have a catch up, and then continue reading extracts from Boy by Roald Dahl. They started with The Great Mouse Plot and Gertrude was so keen to find out what happened, her Reading Befriender continued to read a chapter or two each week. This has provoked some very interesting discussions about school, childhood, and the differences between our own experiences. They also talk about local matters, shops, working life, local history and families. Each session usually ends with a poem. On one memorable occasion, her Reading Befriender started reading Lake Isle of Innisfree and Gertrude joined in - she knew the poem by heart!
Power of storytelling
Gertrude loves everything about her weekly telephone call and wishes it was twice a week. She puts this down to an excellent reader with an expressive voice. When she was able to see to read, she enjoyed a wide variety of genres, including biographies, history and Greek mythology. As a child one of her favourite stories was Hereward the Wake and she used his example of ‘escaping the swampy Fens’ to get through the marshy ground at school.
No longer a bird in a cage
She describes her Reading Friends call as “the highlight of my week”. Prior to the calls she says she felt like a bird in a cage, but she now feels free. Listening to reading helps to take her mind off her various ailments and out of herself. She has always loved books and misses not being able to read herself. Gertrude would definitely recommend Reading Friends to a friend as she appreciates the benefits the initiative has given her.
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