Receiving World Book Night 2016 books opened up new reading opportunities at the Stonham Mental Health Tenancy Support Service in Rotherham and encouraged members of their drop-in group to read more widely. Paul Truin, the service's volunteer co-ordinator, recently told us about this positive impact:
We offer a free floating support service in Rotherham for people with mental health issues who have a housing need, and are at risk of becoming homeless -- if you haven't got a secure roof over your head, it's very hard for other things in life to slot into place, or to overcome wider challenges. Stonham is the care and support division of Home Group Ltd and there are approximately 550 different projects in the UK.
Our drop-in group
About 18 months ago we set up a weekly drop-in group at Mowbray Gardens Library, Rotherham; I try to ensure reading and literature feature in these groups often. We've been very keen to support our local library - we encourage group members, who are mostly men, to take out books and library membership, because it is always good to hear someone talk about a book they have enjoyed.
Administrator Viveca Evans, who is based at our regional head office in Wetherby, has been a World Book Night book-giver for the past three years. She has previously gifted books to accommodation-based services for ex-offenders run by Stonham in Middlesbrough and Hartlepool and to Stonham's Harrogate-based floating support service, which is for vulnerable people at risk of becoming homeless, and this year she offered our group free World Book Night books.
At first I was a bit worried that this might be a bit counter-productive - I thought it might take group members away from borrowing library books.
But I liaised with Viveca to make sure that the titles we received - The Last Bus To Coffeeville by J Paul Henderson and The Rotters' Club by Jonathan Coe - were suitable for people with mental health issues, and made sure that every group member got at least one copy, but in most cases a copy of each.
In fact, they turned out to be the opposite of counter-productive, mainly because they were such good reads! The group members who were attending the library drop in session that day were very surprised and pleased that someone had nominated the group as a suitable destination for a 'gift' of new books. They were honestly touched, and very appreciative.
"They've got us talking about contemporary fiction"
The books led group members to read more books by the same authors and into wider reading: they fed back that these weren't books that they would have thought of picking for themselves. They were all really pleased with the books and send a big thank you to World Book Night and The Reading Agency for arranging them.
Our group members take out a whole range of books, but to date we had mostly looked at history books so contemporary bestsellers were a bit of a new direction for us, and opened up some new directions. I've had conversations with a number of group members who, after reading the donated World Book Night books, have been reading more fiction. They've also got us talking about the latest contemporary fiction, as opposed to established authors from the last 50 years or so.
A lot of the people we work with aren't able to travel much, so they like to read about other places and other worlds. I have also applied for funding to do more work around culture in the Rotherham area.
I'll give the last word to Viveca, who says:
"All these wonderful books meant that we were able to give a brand new book to each client, some of whom had never owned a new book before."
Read more about World Book Night
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