BAB Voices: The Reader
Group Work and Peer Support Pilot Project

Since 2008, The Reader has been using Shared Reading to improve wellbeing, reduce social isolation and build resilience in diverse communities across the UK and beyond.

The Reader ran a Group Work and Peer Support pilot between July 2016 and June 2016. By running a pilot project with Bristol Ageing Better, the organisation would be able to better evidence the impact and the possibility of scaling up the project, with the support of older volunteers.

The project provided a weekly, inclusive shared reading group for older people living with dementia in Bristol. The location of the group was decided following a period of taster sessions and following consultation with older people.

At each session the group explored a different short piece of literature and/or poetry. The stories triggered memories among the participants, which they were encouraged to share with the group in a safe and welcoming environment.

After the initial tasters, The Reader considered the needs of older people to tailor the sessions so participants could make the most of it. The texts were provided in large print, and there was no need for the participants to prepare each week as the literature would be provided on the day and read out loud, either by the reading leader or by participants who were comfortable reading for the group. This provided a no-pressure environment, where people could fully engage with the reading and relax.

“It’s very relaxing being read to. You can let it wash over you; you don’t have to worry about what to say next. Reading stories together – it’s the oldest thing we have, yet better still”, shared one of the participants.

The shared reading group portrayed in the video took place at Willows Day Care Centre in Lawrence Weston. The group welcomed between 7 and 13 participants per session, it also had the support of 3 or 4 members of staff each time.

During the day of our visit, the group were enjoying an extract of Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, which brought memories of being outside and conversations regarding the love for animals and wildlife. They also read the poem Friendship by Elizabeth Jennings. Following the reading of the poem, the group shared what made, in their own view, a good friend and shared stories about friends who had an impact on their lives.



Some older people enjoy quiet settings and can find louder groups overpowering. This was the case for one of the participants, who would normally gaze out the window and look at the view of the Severn while the group read. She would not engage with the group as a whole, however during the project, there were breakthrough moments where she connected with the literature being read and the rest of the participants. After reading Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney, she said: “It’s sobering that line, ‘strange it is a huge nothing we fear’… growing older can be like that, but it needn’t be.”

The Reader have a variety of volunteering opportunities in Bristol and across the UK. These opportunities vary from Reader Leader to Community Advocate and allow people to get involved in a variety of ways with varying commitment levels to suit the individual. The Reader currently has shared reading groups running in 11 libraries across Bristol. These are free to attend, drop-in and very welcoming to new members. For more information, please contact Samantha Weaver on 07812 238 532 or by emailing

More information on The Reader is available at

Call us: 0117 928 1539

© 2021 Age UK Bristol.
A charity limited by guarantee. Registered no 2984207.
Registered Charity no. 1042548

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