Reading Rooms is a shared reading programme that gives participants a voice, reduces isolation and anxiety, and promotes wellbeing.
Reading Rooms started in Derry-Londonderry during their 2013 celebration as the first UK City of Culture. Conceived and administered by the Verbal Arts Centre, Reading Rooms has been delivered in a range of settings across Northern Ireland including residential care homes, prisons, youth groups, schools, and community centres. The Verbal have passed the torch on to Hull Library Service to deliver Reading Rooms through our year as City of Culture.
Using a reading aloud and shared reading setting the programme encourages participants to share personal experiences from their past, sparking memories, stimulating new thoughts and provoking conversation related to the short story and poems selected in advance and tailored to the needs of the group by the project’s Literary Guide.
Michelle Alford, Director of Hull Library Service, said:
“Reading Rooms is a bold concept that challenges the most vunerable people to step out of their comfort zone, explore ideas and feelings through the writing of others. In doing so they are able to experience the new, unusual and exciting with expert support to help them manage their response and build their confidence to explore more literature, and other art forms, as a consumer but potentially as creators too.”
The group sessions are led by a trained facilitator who has completed a three day accredited training programme on how to use the reading aloud model and engage with the groups they are working with. The facilitator skilfully brings the group together and prompts conversation without pressure. Discussions are free flowing and this social aspect of the group allows for a friendly atmosphere and an opportunity to learn more about others.
Reading Rooms can take place anywhere in the community and works best in groups of no more than 12 people.
Over the course of the project 20 library staff – ‘Library Champions’ will receive training to deliver and facilitate these shared reading sessions, followed by an additional 20 volunteers – ‘Community Champions’ being recruited to lead shared reading sessions in their communities.