Chatabout case studies
On the Chatabout online network members have been sharing how they run reading groups. Over the next few months we'll be collecting case studies to share with Chatabout members, here are the latest. Please join Chatabout to get contact details for these groups to find out more.
One-to-one support in HMP Swaleside
For readers who need more intensive support a one-to-one reading environment can be more appropriate. Library assistant Pauline Valentine at HMP Swaleside has set up a reading group where she runs one-to-one sessions for readers. In each session Pauline supports the adult with reading and discussing the book, which sometimes sparks off other discussions. Prison Library Development Manager Marilyn Griffiths has noticed the impact of the project on its members:
"I have noticed one or two of the participants coming into the library now and taking a book to read for their own pleasure, which is a big step forward."
Literacy learners in Stamford
Many reading groups are part of existing groups, such as those run for literacy students. WEA tutor Ruth Read runs a literacy course in Stamford and regularly encourages her group to read for pleasure. The group particularly enjoy using Quick Reads books; the latest they read was Catrin Collier's Black Eyed Devils. The group are of mixed ability, from pre-entry to Level 2 and they meet once a week for two hours. The group starts by reading book extracts aloud with the learners often working in pairs. Discussion is an important part of the session, with learners enjoying talking about the characters and story development. Ruth has also created comprehension exercises for the higher-level learners to encourage writing. Everyone really enjoyed reading the latest book and several of the learners wrote reviews:
"I couldn't put it down, I wanted to know what would happen to Amy."
" I liked the romance and the mystery."
Brent Homeless User Group Reading Club
Brent Homeless User Group is a centre for homeless people and those in vulnerable housing, to visit and gain valuable training in IT, Literacy and Numeracy. Based in Harlesden, the centre provides a variety of courses at different levels to help their clients into further learning and / or employment. Brent Libraries, Arts and Heritage have been working closely with BHUG as part of the Outside Story Project to increase awareness of general library services but specifically encouraging BHUG clients to enjoy reading and develop their literacy skills.
The BHUG Reading Club meets on the third Monday of each month and so far has been focusing on Quick Read titles as their choice of books. Their reading and subsequent discussions have included The 10 Keys to Success by John Bird and Lola Jaye's Reaching for the Stars. Recently, Lola Jaye was a guest speaker at the Reading Club, which was a highlight for members, as Dwayne Foster performance poet and Training Officer at BHUG explains:
"The group love to meet and discuss books. The books that they have read and discussed so far have been very inspiring and Lola's visit was the icing on the cake! The Quick Reads are just the right length and format for our readers and for some it is the first time that they have finished a whole book - great achievement"
The Chatty Readers in Southend
Members of the Chatty Readers, a Skills for Life reading group set up by Southend Libraries and Southend Adult Community College in October 2007, each read different books but get together in order to recommend books to each other. They meet for a two-hour informal session on the first Monday of each month in Southend Central Library. Tutor Nikkie Fisher and community librarian Mandy Robinson started the group together but Mandy now takes responsibility for running the sessions and reporting back to her college partners when necessary. The group now has five regular members and three others who attend occasionally. The main aims of the group are to encourage students from Skills for Life classes to gain more confidence in the library environment and in selecting, reading and talking about books - and to have fun!
Mandy Robinson reports: "The members have become so much more confident in all respects and their reading choices have grown. The Quick Read audio/book packs have become firm favourites."
Amateur Readers in Tameside
Once she had introduced them to the idea of reading for pleasure, the learners in tutor Jill Harrison's class in Tameside asked if they could set up their own reading group. They've now met monthly in the local library for more than three years and have moved from choosing Quick Reads to full-length books by the same authors and titles such as A Thousand Splendid Suns. Jill has always woven reading into her teaching because of her own love of books, but she says that her senior managers have now recognised its value: "Reading for pleasure is now embedded at all levels and it is improving skills."
"Learners take ownership of the process from the start - they are involved in designing the review form, when to meet and choosing the books," explains Jill. "It improves all literacy skills - speaking, listening, reading and writing. Learners are also encouraged to become library members and use their local library services." One group member says: "I now feel confident to go to the library by myself. Sometimes I am looking for a book to read. At other times I take my book and sit in a quiet corner to read it. I used to be scared of going to the library, but now I love it!"
Quick Reads Book Group in Watford
Together with BBC Three Counties Radio and Watford Learning Partnership, Beverley Small from Hertfordshire Library Service helped to start a book group in the autumn of 2006 as part of the BBC RaW Campaign. Their initial hook was to hold meetings at Watford FC, and at the first meeting they offered a tour of the club and the opportunity to meet Watford player and Reading Champion Malky Mackay for those who read the first book and came back to the next meeting.
Watford Central Library is now their main venue but they also meet at West Herts College - the fourth regular partner in the Book Group - if they need a larger venue. When they started it was impossible to tell if anyone would turn up from meeting to meeting. They now have a fairly regular turnout of between eight and twelve members and meet eight times a year.
The group pick a Quick Read and try to organise a speaker or activity for each meeting, preferably linked to the book. They publicise the event in the library, on the radio and through other learning contacts and community organisations in Watford. Seven members took part in the Six Book Challenge and five completed it following a launch event attended by Quick Reads author Mick Dennis in January 2009.
"I enjoyed the books and now reading has become a lasting pleasure in my life," said one Challenge completer from the group. "I wasn't an avid reader but because of the Challenge I sure am."
Hertfordshire Libraries have now started a new Quick Reads Book Group in Oxhey with the Three Rivers Learning Partnership and community charity ASCEND - part of an initiative between learning partnerships in the county and Hertfordshire Libraries to launch more groups.
Book Group in Stockton on Tees
The book group at Stockton Library started in 2006 during the BBC RaW campaign. Stockton Library Service recruited Skills for Life students in partnership with Tees Achieve (adult education service).The group meets monthly in the library and continues to be run jointly by the library service and Tees Achieve. It has a membership of nine who read a variety of books from Entry Level to Quick Reads depending on reading levels. Each person takes it in turns to tell us about what they have read. Occasionally three or four people will read the same books and then we encourage discussion. Members recommend books to each other and have a reading group board on which they post their reviews as well as information about the authors that they have researched from the internet
"The monthly book group is a favourite with my Skills for Life learners," says tutor Anne O'Connor. "It has proved to be a resource through which learners have improved not only their reading skills but also their writing and communicative skills through discussion and debate. It has also been influential in helping learners take ownership of their own learning with confidence and enjoyment." This is endorsed by a member of the group: "I've learnt how to choose books at the library and I talk about books more."
Community Librarian Penny Slee reports: "I have seen members of the group grow in confidence - at first we chose the books to be read but now the group chooses what they would like to read. Reading is now a pleasure and an everyday part of their lives."
Reading groups in Stoke
Stoke-on-Trent Library Service has developed several reading groups with local partners. "People who had difficulty reading are now able to participate in book discussions and reading aloud," reports Community Librarian Emma George. "Several people completed the Six Book Challenge, which provided a real boost to their confidence. Group members are all very supportive of one another, and those who initially had no interest in reading are now practising their skills outside the group."
The library service has worked closely with Stoke-on-Trent College to start groups for Skills for Life learners. One group meets every fortnight in Tunstall Library. Members read together and three people who had difficulties reading are now confident and able to participate using Quick Reads titles. Everyone borrows books to read at home and discuss at the start of the session.
A second group was started in City Central Library, Hanley. This was initially facilitated by a member of library staff and then handed over to the group to run themselves. Despite the efforts of a very committed core of three people, they struggled to attract more members, but the group will be relaunched at Stoke Library in January. This is being promoted through library visits to Skills for Life classes and through college tutors and mentors.
A third Skills for Life group starts in December. This will meet weekly at Tunstall Neighbourhood College, and will consist of between six and eight members. A librarian will attend the first meeting and will supply the group with books on an ongoing basis.
Stoke also has two reading groups for adults with learning disabilities. The first, which was set up in partnership with Shelton Day Service in the autumn of 2008, has eight members. As well as reading the same book aloud, members have taken part in football-related reading activities through Premier League Reading Stars, completed the Six Book Challenge and had some Family History taster sessions with the City Archives service. The second group meets at Expressions Café in Hanley which is staffed by people with learning disabilities. The group borrows books and reads aloud together. It is open to other people who would like to practice their reading, and two Skills for Life students have recently joined this group.
TASC Reading Group in Middlesbrough
The TASC reading group have been meeting every Monday afternoon at Acklam Library, Middlesbrough since the autumn of 2007. The group is run by Outreach Librarian Ruth Cull with Fred Chiesa from TASC (Teesside Ability Support Centre) and has six regular members who all have different reading abilities. The group reads Quick Reads books, each reading a few pages aloud. They discuss the story as they read and predict what will happen. Everyone is involved in choosing the next book and members particularly enjoy humorous books such as Happy Families by Adele Parks. The group also write reviews for the TASC magazine and for display in the library and are starting their own creative writing in 2010. Rob Findlay, who has attended the reading group for about a year now, says "I like coming to the reading group because I like to learn through reading. The staff at the library are brilliant."