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Education Worldwide

Shared Reading for the Elderly in the UK


More and more people are getting older, quite a couple of them feeling alone or isolated, even while staying in dedicated senior homes. What is more, dementia is on the rise, too. The project Get Into Reading developed a literature-based intervention model tackling those issues. The main feature of this model is that literature is read aloud and shared by all participants. Get Into Reading emphasizes classic literature as a tool for offering models of human thinking and feeling.

Participants meet weekly. Sessions last around an hour or up to an hour and a half, depending on the participants’ demands and abilities to follow and engage with reading material. Usually, a facilitator starts reading some prose text, and group members interact and discuss in relation to the story, the scene, the characters, the place, the setting, the topic, the plot. Another member of the group may continue reading aloud. A session ends with a poem related to the previous text or themes that emerged during the session. Concluding a session in such a way gives the participants a sense of completion and allows for the opportunity to reflect upon some issues from a new angle on the way or back home.

For the prose section, the Get Into Reading model takes into account issues such as poor concentration or short-term memory loss. Prose material incorporates short short stories or discursive and episodic text passages so that participants do not need to remember what happened before. Get Into Reading has published the anthology A little, Aloud with stories and poems especially suited for reading aloud to elderly persons or someone one cares for. The anthology developed out of experiences with the reading groups for elderly people and those with dementia. The anthology aims to stimulate thought and memory and encourages the sharing of ideas and feelings by providing short introductions to each text and possible discussion topics for each piece.

By now, Get Into Reading is running 35 weekly groups in older people’s and dementia care settings. An evaluation found that during a group 87 per cent have improved concentration, 86 per cent of members are less agitated, 86 per cent have improved mood, 73 per cent have better social interaction while improved mood and less agitation continued long after the group is over.

Get Into Reading not only serves the elderly. This project is also carried for other special populations such as the homeless or for a more general public in locations such as libraries. The first Get Into Reading group was set up in 2002 and addressed young single mums in Birkenhead, a town opposite the city of Liverpool. Get Into Reading is a project run by the Reader Organisation. Jane Davies and colleagues from the University of Liverpool started this charity in 1997 by setting up the magazine The Reader.