Through 1,000 volunteers and cross-sector partners, The Reader brings together more than 4,000 people a month to share and discuss great novels and poems for ‘Shared Reading’. By reading with families, adults, looked after children, older people in care homes, adults with poor mental health, people coping with or recovering from addiction and people in the criminal justice system, it’s work improves wellbeing, reduces isolation and builds stronger communities.
The Reader was awarded a grant from the Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner’s Fund towards the ‘Through the Gate’ project, helping ex-offenders to have a more successful reintroduction to society by training prisoners to lead reading groups with a view to continue volunteering on release. The organisation has found that ex-offenders who attended a supported reading programme during their sentence, and who have meaningful activity during the challenging transition period after release, are less likely to re-offend. Shared Reading is now part of rehabilitation programmes in several Norfolk and Suffolk prisons.
A special part to this group is that it is driven by the energy of people who have discovered the life-changing experience that is Shared Reading whilst in prison. It’s their drive to support more people with similar experiences to their own, that has enabled this group to launch this programme. It is well evidenced that the transition back into society presents multiple challenges, regardless of the length of a sentence. Creative ‘through the gate’ activities, such as Shared Reading, have the power to transform lives by helping people to find their voice and imagine an alternative future for themselves; a significant step toward reducing re-offending.
In times when the prolonged effects of isolation are yet to be realised in our wider communities, fostering new ways for those most vulnerable to find hope and connection is more crucial than ever. We look forward developing this service with partners to support even more people next year. Thank you for this funding.