Almost every day or week is ‘something’ day or week, many of which pass unnoticed by most people, so you may not be aware that June 25th is National Reading Group day. There’s a competition - with Dawn French as the prize! Like World Book Night back in March, it’s a first this year and so I’m doing just a little bit to promote it.
I belong to a reading group, and even though I have always been a reader, meeting with the group has stimulated me to read books and authors I had not previously encountered and to pick up books that I may well have ignored. Some of our chosen books have been brilliant, one or two quite the reverse but all have been discussed with enthusiasm. The most interesting aspect of the group debate is seeing a book through someone else’s views. Often I find that a book I have disliked or struggled with, makes sense to me when we talk about it, and although I still might not like it, I have gained an appreciation of it.
The group I attend, held in my local library, is made up of a lively, intelligent bunch, with varying viewpoints. We are all women, apart from the librarian, who I’m sure at times must wonder how he got mixed up in this group of very vocal women. We’re not anti-men - it’s just that those who have ventured in once, never return!
Reading groups have a variety of functions, from introducing people to reading to enabling erudite discussions. They take place in libraries, schools, people’s homes, workplaces, day centres, prisons, shelters for the homeless, pretty well anywhere. Their functions and formats are as varied, but I’m pretty sure they all have one thing in common - they are stimulating and enhance lives.
Not everyone can read for themselves; some have not yet learned to read, some have lost their ability to do so because of visual problems or acquired language disorder and so reading groups might take the form of listening to someone else reading, followed by a group discussion. Reading groups such as these can lead people to a world of discovery and put others back in touch with a world that they had lost. Either way, invaluable.