School of English

Shared reading groups

The school participates in two shared reading group initiatives that engage with the local community and help to promote the health benefits of reading aloud in group contexts.

They are:

  • The Dementia Reading Group
  • The Community Reading Group
Shared reading brings members of the local community together.

Dementia Reading Group

Research into bibliotherapy has revealed that reading poems and stories can have a 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 placements

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 and the County Dementia Outreach Service. Students are fully supported throughout the placement.

Contact the Dementia Reading Group

For more information about the group, please contact Dr Kevin Harvey.

Skills gained

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


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

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.

Some citizens have good knowledge of poetry and feed back to the group with favourite authors and share 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 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.


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.


Dementia Day-to-Day website

Reading group participants also 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.

Read the Dementia Day-to-Day blog

Community Reading Group

The Schools of English and Education at the University of Nottingham, together with the School of English at Sheffield Hallam University, jointly run a community shared reading group. The group is open to everyone - new members are always welcome.

Shared reading is an increasingly popular activity in the UK. Pioneered by The Reader Organisation, a charitable social enterprise, shared reading aims to connect people with fantastic literature and with each other. Shared reading involves the reading aloud of stories, novels, poems and plays to groups of people - readings which are experienced and discussed communally by group members.

Our group has been running for over two years. We meet at the Thomas Helwys Baptist Church, Church Street, Lenton, Nottingham every Wednesday at 2.30pm. If you are interested in coming along to the group and sharing in the delight of listening to reading aloud, you'll receive a warm welcome!

Contact the Community Reading Group

If you’d like more information about the group and the kinds of activities that take place, please contact one of the group facilitators:

Dr Kevin Harvey Dr Susan Jones Dr Dave Peplow


School of English

Trent Building
The University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900