Dementia Reading Group
Research into bibliotherapy has revealed that reading poems and stories can have a very positive effect on people with dementia as well as bringing together older and socially-isolated people. Shared reading involves reading stories, poems, novels and plays to groups – readings which are experienced and discussed communally by group members.
Undergraduate students from the School of English have the opportunity to undertake placements as Reading Group Facilitators in the Dementia Reading Group, getting involved in group reading and one-on-one reading with residents in a local care home. Full training is provided by the School of English and the County Dementia Outreach Service. Students are fully supported throughout the placement.
Read about the fantastic work being done by our students under the guidance of Dr Kevin Harvey, whose research focuses on health communication
Students participating in the scheme have the opportunity to develop a range of skills.
Reading group facilitators develop their interpersonal skills, presentation and leaderships skills, and will also be able to plan and research the texts to read in each session, whilst making a marked difference to the local community.
Successful candidates will gain practical and demonstrable experience in the following key areas:
- Working with adults (especially older adults)
- Facilitating a shared reading group
- Planning, research and preparation of material to present to the group
- Developing interpersonal skills
Read some comments from care home staff and residents and English students who have got involved with the scheme.
Feedback from care home staff:
Residents have listened intently and joined in lively discussions and reminisced as the girls have begun to select poetry with targeted interest, such as childhood, school poetry, dance, the countryside, flowers and a lot of Pam Ayres which has covered a whole variety of topics with humour. […] It has been truly inspiring to watch and listen and there have been some real successes such as the lady who initially rejected the session but who has returned each week and has been one of our most avid listeners and a gentleman who does not have dementia but suffered a stroke and rejects any form of organised activity, he has sat with the students for 20 minutes chatting about his life and interests, the staff here were absolutely amazed.
The students have breathed life into the home, treated everyone with total equality, shown incredible patience and brought sunshine and joy by a simple smile, youthful energy and bags of enthusiasm. We are so glad that they have enjoyed the experience as much as we have and would like to thank you for including us in your programme and providing us with such wonderful students.
- Elaine Highet, Activities Coordinator, Orchard House care home
Here at the Oaks Residential Home we have been working with the University of Nottingham in a shared reading and poetry group. The group has been going since 2015 and has proved very successful. The students have joined our citizens on a regular basis, reading poems selected by themselves and also selected by our citizens. Our citizens have definitely built up relationships and look forward to listening and sharing their experiences of poetry and literature with the group. Citizens enjoy the social aspect of the group, and the memories flood back on most sessions opening up memories of their childhoods and points in time to various poems. I have noticed that some citizens, that can sometimes be unsettled, fall to sleep in the group. I feel that citizens are not bored but just enjoying the calm atmosphere, which in turn relaxes them. Some citizens have good knowledge of poetry and feedback to the group with favourite authors and feelings of how the poems made them feel. I feel this group is very beneficial to our citizens: symptoms of dementia and anxiety seem less pronounced.
- Deborah Young, Activities Coordinator, The Oaks care home
Feedback from care home residents:
It’s nice to listen to – it’s rhythmic and relaxing – it’s part of living – I love poetry!
It’s so calming and relaxing.
I would be asleep in my room if I weren’t here doing this.
It takes you back in time, takes you back to school. I used to love poetry at school.
Feedback from student volunteers:
Our responsibilities mainly involved reading out the poetry and then aiming to start a conversation with residents, and allow them to engage in conversation with one another, sparked by the poems we have read. […] Poems which I found worked well were 'Sea Fever' by John Masefield and 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' by Wordsworth, as many people had memorised these poems in school. […] Completing a placement which uses language to help people in a healthcare setting was very valuable to me, and confirmed that this sort of work is something I would love to be part of in the future.
- Daisy Edwards, Reading Aloud volunteer 2016-17
Due to the connection of the placement to poetry and prose, the Reading Aloud Scheme was extremely well suited to an English student. It gave me the opportunity to combine my love for the subject with the interest of the participants, as well as the chance to discover new writers and poets I didn't know about. The placement also allowed me to hone my communication skills, especially in relation to working with older people.
- Connie Baird, Reading Aloud volunteer 2016-17
Reading group participants have the opportunity to blog about their experiences for the Dementia Day-to-Day website. This blog is an exciting new initiative jointly run by the Institute of Mental Health and the School of English. It brings together authors from all walks of life - each with their own experience of, and interest in, dementia - to explore the subject of ageing and wellbeing from as many angles as possible.
A number of School of English staff and students have blogged for Dementia Day-to-Day - read their blogs here