Last month saw the opening of the UK's first Shared Reading Space in Birkenhead Central Library, where reading revolutionaries can create supportive communities around great literature.
Run by volunteers and The Reader, an organisation based in Liverpool's Claderstones Park, Birkenhead Library is also the home of The Reader’s first ‘Shared Reading group’, launched over a decade ago. The Shared Reading Space is the charity’s next innovation for creating a reading revolution.
Wirral is the oldest ‘Shared Reading Community’ in the UK, as the place where founder Jane Davis launched the concept of The Reader more than a decade ago.
The innovative space, created by The Reader and backed up by Wirral's public health team and libraries, will enhance the lives of people across the borough.
Shared reading has been proven to improve wellbeing, reduce social isolation and build stronger, more supportive communities, making the shared reading space a pioneer in improving community health and wellbeing.
Wirral currently has 25 groups running, from Birkenhead to West Kirby, with some groups extending to hard-to-reach groups including dementia care homes and probation services.
The space, with a team of volunteers and ‘Reader Leaders’ will encourage locals to build a reading community outside of weekly groups.
This work is backed by Wirral’s Public Health team, which has recently committed to the long term provision of Shared Reading as an essential service for residents.
Julie Webster, Acting Director for Public Health and Wellbeing at Wirral Council, said: “We are constantly looking for opportunities to promote health and wellbeing. I am very pleased that we have developed our relationship with The Reader to promote the power of Shared Reading to local people.
“The feedback we've had from residents taking part in Reader sessions is very powerful and goes well beyond attendance at reading groups to feeling more in control of their lives and learning new skills".
“We know loneliness is now considered an important public health problem by government, with greater emphasis on the need to ‘stay healthy’ and ‘age well’” said The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis.
“At The Reader, we believe a reading revolution that helps people come together, around great literature, to talk, laugh and share is a simple way to create healthy communities. We urge those that can to think about joining or leading a Shared Reading group in Birkenhead, Wirral and beyond.”
Testament to the power of reading aloud together, Wirral’s ‘Shakespeare Shared Reading Group’ has been meeting to read and discuss the words of the nation’s favourite playwright every Monday since 2008.
Groups are free and open to all, normally last an hour or an hour and a half, and run every week in local community spaces. The Shared Reading Space is open during Birkenhead Central Library opening hours.
Birkenhead Central Library address: Borough Rd, Birkenhead CH41 2XB.