Shared Reading



Shared Reading with Marnie Kennedy
Reader in Residence at the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts
The Reader Charity


How does it work?

Shared Reading groups are open to all and free to attend.

Article Link Below

Making Things Happen: Building a Shared Reading Community in Belfast

A group of people, one of them a trained Reader Leader, reads a great novel, short story or poem aloud. We stop and talk about what we have read. There is no need for group members to read aloud or speak – it’s fine to just listen. The idea is to create a space where people feel at ease.

Reading the literature aloud in real-time, means that everyone is involved in a shared, live experience. Group members are encouraged by the Reader Leader to respond personally, sharing feelings, thoughts and memories provoked by the reading.

Everyone experiences the text in their own way, but the literature provides a shared language that can help us to understand ourselves – and others – better.

No other organisation makes use of literature in this way. Shared Reading helps us to understand our individual and collective inner lives, round the same table, at the same time.

Reference: The Reader Charity,



In health and social care

For many of our Readers, Shared Reading helps to improve mental wellbeing and physical health. Our work supports people living with conditions including dementia, complex mental health issues and chronic pain, as well as those recovering from addiction.

Through collaborations with hospitals, NHS trusts, GPs and clinical commissioning groups, Shared Reading helps people stay well in their community.

Shared Reading can be embedded in NHS services through staff training, enhancing the patient experience and developing the workforce to deliver creative activities with their service users.

Reference: The Reader Charity,

An Investigation into the Therapeutic Benefits of Reading in Relation to Depression and Well-Being

This one-year research study concluded that Shared Reading groups helped patients suffering from depression in terms of their social, mental, emotional and psychological well-being. The clinical data indicated that statistically significant improvements in the mental health of depressed patients had occurred during the 12-month period in which they had attended reading groups.

It found that there were four significant ‘mechanisms of action’ involved in the reading group intervention, three of which were essential to its success, the fourth influential:

  • A rich, varied, non-prescriptive diet of serious literature
  • The role of the group facilitator in making the literature ‘live’ in the room
  • The role of the group in offering support and a sense of community
  • The creation of stimulating, non-pressurised, non-judgemental atmosphere (‘not like school’, as one participant emphatically put it) overrode considerations of physical environment

The report also established what types of literature work, why they work and how they work in the specific context of depressive illness.

Reference: The Reader,

Read to Care: An Investigation into Quality of Life Benefits of Shared Reading Groups for People Living with Dementia by Martin Gallagher (September 14, 2017)

Investigating the impact that engaging in Shared Reading group activity had on participants with mild to moderate dementia in four care homes across Wirral.

The study paid particular consideration to: the use of powerfully emotional literature to trigger awakenings in people living with dementia; the value of literature in offering emotional experiences too often feared to be ‘negative’; the kind of memory that is stimulated by Shared Reading and the additional effect on relatives and carers. Shared Reading was found to significantly improve the quality of life for those living with dementia as well as providing valuable benefit to care workers and relatives in encouragement of remaining human possibilities.

Reference: The Reader,