East Midlands Regional Reading Group Project
The East Midlands Regional Reading Group Project has now finished after three very successful years’ work in the region’s public libraries. Starting in April 2005, the project was a pilot to test the Reading Agency’s (TRA) proposed national offer for reading group provision and framework. The pilot was delivered by the nine local authority public library services via the EMRALD group (East Midlands Reader and Library Development) with support from Museums, Libraries Archives; East Midlands, Arts Council England, East Midlands and TRA.
The library network now supports well over 700 reading groups, an increase of over 85% since the project started. In recognition of widening access to reading the project was awarded an Opening Doors National Adult Learners' Week Award in May 2008.
The final strands of work completed in 2007 -2008 were an outreach storytelling project; three small pilot projects exploring volunteers in reading groups; and two exciting creative commissions: a book of short stories and a film published during the National Year of Reading as a fitting celebration of reading.
In addition a reading promotion based on the Writers2Readers initiative was developed by EMRALD group and promoted across regional libraries. A final evaluation report on the whole project is due to be published in November 2008.
The storytelling project targeted people who traditionally do not use our libraries through joint working with a range of partners and five very different groups: young asylum seekers; residents of a care home; learning disabled adults, women with domestic problems; and young adults with Prader Willi syndrome. The final evaluation report is available.
The two innovative Writers2Readers Creative Commissions involved Nottinghamshire writer Anthony Cropper and Leicester based crime writer/film maker Rod Duncan working with reading groups across the region.
Anthony discussed short stories with readers, exploring their meaning and impact, which then inspired his own collection of short stories Nature's Magician, published October 2008 by Route Publishing.
Anthony Cropper (left), reading from his new collection at the launch of Nature's Magician on December 12th 2008 at Nottingham Central Library.
Rod’s film Yarn is a personal journey around the East Midlands visiting reading groups to try and understand our love of stories and books.Both Yarn and Nature’s Magician are now being distributed to libraries in the East Midlands and will be read or watched and discussed by many more readers.
Three authorities took part in pilot working with volunteers to support reading activities. Nottinghamshire have established a reading group for blind and partially sighted readers, and in Derbyshire and Northamptonshire volunteers assist with reading in care homes and sheltered housing. In addition, the volunteer pilots encouraged individuals to become reading champions.The photo shows the pilot launch event, January 2007.
The Writers2Readers Promotion featured the nine regional writers previously involved in visiting reading groups in the second year of the project (see EMRRGP Interim Evaluation Report (2007) for more information). A collection of the writers’ books was promoted across the region’s libraries with publicity material developed by EMRALD.
Although the EM Regional Reading Group pilot is completed, the network is flourishing. New and different types of reading groups for a wide range of audiences will continue to be supported by libraries, demonstrating the important role of reading and community engagement, and expanding access to reading through partnership working and creative activity.
The success of the project has led to interest elsewhere in the country and the West Midlands region is now running a pilot roll out of the library reading group offer, based on tools developed in the East Midlands. These include the Matrix for Reading Groups framework with three levels of delivery; Books Connect Reading Pack (see below), reading group models , volunteer case studies, and evaluation methods.
The Books Connect Reading Pack contains ideas and information to help in the setting up and running of a reading group, including: ’Getting Started: First Meeting’, ‘How to run your reading group’, ‘Things to talk about’, ‘Reading for blind and partially sighted people’, ‘Web reading guides’ and much more.