Books / Reading

Shared Reading project brings people together through reading aloud

By josephine hardwood, Tuesday Apr 23, 2019

The Reader and Bristol Libraries are using Shared Reading to make literature an accessible, inclusive experience for all, and we would love you to join us. Shared Reading groups bring books and poems to life through reading aloud.

There are 23 of these groups currently running in spaces across the city, from bookshops to care homes. The 11 longest-running groups are in Bristol Libraries and they are open to everyone. It’s a lovely way to bring communities and libraries together, and the perfect place to encourage people to engage with literature.

Often group members are inspired by the extract they have read in the group that day, and will immediately borrow the full book from the library!

We have an average of six people at each group, although our most popular ones can often see over 10 attendees per week. They are free to attend and there is no need to book in advance – there’s is no prep required, so you can just drop in and see what it’s like.

In a Shared Reading group, a volunteer Reader Leaders chooses a short story or extract or poem to share. Each text is read aloud, with pauses for a chat about parts of the story or poem that feel important.  Our Reader Leader encourages reflection on the text, on the thoughts and experiences of the people within these stories.

This isn’t a book club or an academic study group. We really focus on the heart of the text – how does it make us feel, how can we relate to it?

No one is forced to read aloud – group members can sit and listen if they prefer, there’s no pressure to talk or share.

You can join any of the groups right now. Find your closest one at

We’re also currently recruiting a number of Reader Leader volunteers, in both current library groups and in new community spaces. Our next training course starts in early May. Email for more information – we’d love to tell you more about getting involved.

The Reader’s work in Bristol is supported by Bristol Ageing Better, a partnership working to reduce social isolation and loneliness among over 50s and help them live fulfilling lives.

For full information on Shared Reading, how to join a group and how to apply for a Reader Leader position, visit

Josephine Hardwood is community engagement leader for The Reader

Read more: What does the future hold for Bristol’s libraries?

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