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Shared Reading Groups

This project was run by The Reader

What was the project?

The project established more than 30 shared reading groups across the city – reaching those over-50, at risk of social isolation on hospital wards, sheltered housing sites, libraries and a range of other settings.


What did the project do?

Shared Reading inspired and supported people to read, aloud, together. Led by a trained facilitator, it connected people to great literature and each other in weekly groups, that made literature accessible to all - regardless of background, age or ability. Thoughts and experiences were shared and social connections made – in a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment.

Shared Reading has over a decade of research underpinning it that testifies to the benefits to group members and volunteers alike. This work reduces isolation, improves wellbeing and The Reader have a growing body of evidence to suggest that the model has therapeutic benefits – for volunteers and group members alike.

In Bristol, The Reader trained 77 volunteers to deliver more than 30 Shared Reading groups.


How to get in touch

For further information about this project please contact the Michael Prior, South West Community and Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement Lead,


Why did BAB fund it?

After taking the learning from our Group work and Peer support pilots, we were keen to ensure that at least one of our contracts used art or literature as a basis for bringing people together. We invited tenders for an arts-based group work project and The Reader were the successful bidder.


Project news and learning

Shared Reading groups were set up in libraries, community venues, sheltered accommodation, and care homes. The project worked closely with BAB partners to find new venues, set up groups and promote to older people. Volunteer recruitment and retention have been really successful with this project with roughly half aged over 50.

During the coronavirus outbreak, Age UK Bristol formed a Support Hub for older people. The Reader was funded by BAB in this time to run virtual and over the phone shared reading sessions. They have retained half of their volunteers during this period with 90% aged 50 and over.  Both virtual and phone groups have worked really well and the Reader hopes to retain these even when they resume face-to-face groups because they make the groups accessible for everyone.

Read how The Reader adapted to provide this service during the pandemic. 

The Reader are looking for further funding to continue this project so they can expand their reach with additional groups and new partners across the city.

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