Charity bringing literature to life will tackle isolation amongst the elderly in Croydon with new reading groups

A charity that brings people together through group reading has been given £88,000 to set up 15 new reading groups in Croydon, with the end goal of expanding into a London-wide network.

The City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, City Bridge Trust, has given £87,996 to The Reader to set up reading groups for over 75s in a three year project in Croydon.

The Reader believes that older people in London are more likely to live alone, in poverty and lack family support networks compared to elsewhere in the UK. The focus of this project will therefore be the prevention of isolation and building of positive social networks for over-75’s.

With the funding, the project aims to establish 15 reading groups reaching 243 members, run 965 sessions, train 24 volunteers and 2 local organisers, helping over 5000 residents.

The programme will offer 1:1 sessions as well as group activities, which include reading aloud and listening to poems and stories.

Alison Gowman, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said:

“In 2015 the charity reached over 12,000 people proving it is already changing lives, but there is scope to do even more and target some of the most vulnerable members of society.

“This programme in Croydon will allow for meaningful, face-to-face socialising with other residents in the community, reducing loneliness, improving wellbeing and enhancing quality of life.

“City Bridge Trust is committed to tackling disadvantage across the capital and making London a fairer and better place to live.”

Jane Davis, Founder and Director of The Reader, added:

“This exciting new partnership with City Bridge Trust will bring volunteer-led Shared Reading groups to the over-75 community in Croydon. Social isolation and poor mental health are such big concerns across the UK, particularly among those who are older, and this project will make a real difference.

“At The Reader, we're building a network of volunteers to help us get Shared Reading into the lives of those who need it most, in every corner of the UK."

City Bridge Trust is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of £20 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital. The Trust has awarded around 7,500 grants totalling over £360 million since it first began in 1995. It helps achieve the Corporation’s aim of changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

Case study- Rose’s story

Rose is 77 and has been a care home resident for over 3 years. She has been attending a weekly Shared Reading group organised by The Reader.

“You might have a friend here but they’re not really interested in what you’re saying. There’s a lot of them sad. Lots of people that don’t feel happy, frightened to speak. You keep a lot to yourself. There’s no one who really takes any interest. I don’t think anyone else cares. It’s only you who comes and does these things and it’s something to look forward to. I look forward to the poems and I look forward to you talking.

We’re all pleased about you coming. We feel like somebody cares. We didn’t know what to expect when we first started the Shared Reading group, but what we got was lovely! If you didn’t come, we’d have nothing to think about.

It’s surprising what it does to the mind. Your mind starts wandering when you’re unhappy, it wanders too much. After you’ve been and we’ve read these poems, I think it helps a lot. Everything in your mind seems clearer. I often think about them after you’ve left.

It puts something in your mind. It doesn’t always come straight away but the mind starts thinking. This is the only time we talk, you see. The rest of it is always in there [points to head] and we’re not happy. Everything that’s been happening in the group has been very true. Real. And this stuff that’s written down makes you feel different. It makes you feel lucky to be here. Because whatever’s in these stories is true – a lot of them are very truthful – they say a lot, they mean something.”




Media Enquiries

Kristina Drake

Media Officer, City of London Corporation

07710860884 / 020 7332 1125