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© Opening the Book Ltd Reading groups in the UK Rachel Van Riel

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1 © Opening the Book Ltd Reading groups in the UK Rachel Van Riel

2 © Opening the Book Ltd Quick history Private groups have existed for many decades First library-run group in 1994 National Year of Reading 1998 gave boost Branching Out run by Opening the Book trained librarians as agents of change Reading Group Toolbox, Opening the Book with Waterstones 2000 The Reading Agency and Chatterbooks The Reader Organisation and Get into Reading Now estimated 10,000 groups

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7 Chesterfield Library 200 groups in the county borrow books including: A listening group for visually impaired readers A drop-in group with no preparation A university of the third age group A group based in the mental health unit at the hospital A classics reading group A library staff reading group Several Womens Institute groups in rural areas

8 © Opening the Book Ltd Reading groups in libraries Part of wider reader development movement which aims to: increase peoples enjoyment and confidence in reading open up reading choices offer opportunities to share reading experiences raise the status of reading as a creative activity By 2004 libraries required by government to have a reader development strategy

9 © Opening the Book Ltd The reader-centred approach Start from the reading experience not the text Keep it different from study Each participant is expert in their own reading experience. This gives equality across different preferences, knowledge and appetites

10 © Opening the Book Ltd Ideas to get going Where do you read? What do you read when youre ill? Display 10 book covers – which appeal to you and which dont? Choose a treat, a challenge and a book you wouldnt read even if you were paid to Which character in a book did you first fall in love with? … and lots more

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13 Bookmarks Insert this bookmark at the end of the first chunk you read Insert this bookmark at the point where you got into the book and knew you would continue to read it Insert this bookmark at the point where your involvement with the book went down a bit Insert this bookmark on the last page you read

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18 Recommended by another reader

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26 Sustainability and independence Reading groups are organic. Dont struggle to keep a dying one alive. Close it and start another at a different time or place. Library services have developed policies on reading groups – which ones to prioritise support to, what all groups can expect, what staff time it is possible to allocate.

27 © Opening the Book Ltd Benefits to the library Staff develop skills and confidence in talking about books Readers can give back – advocacy, comments and reviews, noticeboard, events, outreach Ready-made audience for author events Contribution to community cohesion

28 © Opening the Book Ltd Why people love reading groups Readers enjoy a safe way to discuss deep issues and emotions – people hunger for depth and meaning in their lives The reading group is the only place in a long life where I have experienced amicable disagreement. The mix of intellectual challenge, emotional depth and social networking in a reading group is hard to find anywhere else.

29 © Opening the Book Ltd Why reading groups matter Respect for different opinions is the basis of any reading group – this is a cornerstone of participatory democracy Reading lets you walk in someone elses shoes – talking about the walk adds another level Library-based groups are open and include many people who are otherwise isolated Reading groups help the wider book world - publishers and booksellers know word of mouth lifts sales

30 © Opening the Book Ltd Audience development for literature If you are interested in the reader-centred approach, Opening the Book is looking for partners to make an application to the EU Cultural Fund. We wish to bring librarians in different countries together to develop reader-centred skills to promote literature in new ways.

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37 The reading expe rience The reader-centred approach sells the reading experience and what it can do for you, rather than selling individual books or writers. This builds the audience for literature by moving readers beyond brand loyalty to individual writers, developing confidence and interest in trying something new.

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