Reading for Wellbeing is a Kent based project aimed at getting people into reading for pleasure whilst improving their well-being and social inclusion. We do this through our shared reading groups and six week programme. We work with anyone who has an interest in reading or is willing to give it a go!
We work with groups of adults and young people across Kent who are or have experienced issues such as poor mental health, homelessness, domestic abuse, chronic pain and substance misuse. The facilitator chooses pieces of literature, stories, extracts, articles and poetry to suit the groups need and reads aloud. This means anyone can get involved, no matter what their reading ability. The groups are encouraged and guided to discussion where the participants can explore feelings, memories and issues within a safe environment.
The benefits are vast and generally help improve confidence, social inclusion, general well-being and help to give people a sense of community and belonging. By opening up people’s access to stories and poems you also help them to increase their literacy levels.
With the read aloud method participants get to sit back and relax and be in the moment, tapping into mindfulness techniques. Many have not experienced being read to at all or since they were young children and all comment on how comforting and relaxing it is. All participants are encouraged to read along enabling them to expand their vocabulary and really engage with the text.
Many people we work with have either never read for pleasure, disengaged with reading following illness or situations out of their control or lack the concentration to be able to get into and enjoy a book. By attending the groups they are given ideas and suggested readings to get them started.
The most interesting and important evidence is the improvement in well-being. Everyone who attends is asked to complete a well-being questionnaire which is reviewed regularly. The results of these questionnaires show clear improvement in how people feel their own well-being is and how they feel about themselves.
Zena's background includes over 20 years working in the Health and Social Care sector. She has supported adults with disabilities, challenging behaviour, elderly and those with mental health issues. She has undertaken sector specific qualifications in supported living, mental health and counselling qualifications. She has also completed various additional training courses such as Solution Focused Therapy, Safeguarding and Mental Health First Aid. Zena trained in the Read Aloud method in 2010, completing her training in 2011 and then running a few groups whilst working in mental health services. The evidence was clear that engaging with these groups and reading has a positive effect on mental well-being. So after quitting her job in January 2016 to look after her mental and physical health Zena embarked on a new adventure with books.
"My journey and relationship with reading has taken many twists and turns from childhood to now. As a child I spent a lot of time lost in books and dreaming of far away places whilst looking for escapism from difficulties at home. As I got older and had less time to myself I found my reading engagement decreased. I also had a difficult time with chronic illness and found my concentration levels really prevented me from reading and enjoying books. I couldn't recall anything I had read which made it difficult to connect with a story, I've managed to overcome this and redevelop my passion for reading. I want to share this with others and show how you can engage with reading at any level"
“Zena has been terrific with our service users. Her passion for reading ,and the difference it can make in people’s lives, really shines through all she does. Allied to her caring and empowering approach makes for a winning combination in getting vulnerable people to engage with reading. Her organisational skills are a bonus and our sessions have been so good throughout her involvement. I can’t sing her praises enough”.
Richard Barnard JET Manager
“Zena has been working with families that had suffered Domestic abuse, mums and Zena reading short stories in a comfortable environment encouraging them to read themselves at home. During the school holidays the children were invited along for a reading session, reading ‘Every Bunny Dance’ and colouring in bunny ears – a great time had by all.”
Enhanced New Beginnings Domestic Abuse Project Co-ordinator