On being a "Reading Champion"

City Reads is a damn fine organisation who describe themselves thus: 

City Reads is an annual citywide reading initiative which aims to spread a love of books and ideas to the widest possible audience throughout Brighton & Hove. The project is run by Collected Works: a Reader Development organisation based in Brighton. The concept is simple: selecting one book by one author for the whole community to read, discuss, debate and creatively engage with in a series of special events, workshops and performances.

They asked me to write a small piece for them about being a “Reading Champion”. (By the by, I find the name “Reading Champion” quite awkward and comical, so never refer to myself as such. I do, however, volunteer for their Read to Recovery programme.) 

Fiction has always played a large part in my life, I was making stories up before I could read, and I’ve never lost the joy of immersing myself in a fictive world. I work part-time as a bookseller, I’m a writer, and still an avid reader. I love the idea of using fiction as a tool to bring people together. After going through a selection process, and training, I’m currently co-running a group in Southwick at The Corner House a fabulous resource centre for people with mental health issues. We meet once a week and take turns reading aloud (it’s fine if a group member prefers to listen, nobody has to read aloud). During the first sessions we read a short story and a poem each week, now we’ve moved on to this year’s City Reads novel: My Policeman by Bethan Roberts. We chat about the story as we go along, springboard off it into other discussions, memories, thoughts. It’s a small group, relaxed and informal, no opinion is wrong, all voices are equal.

I’m passionate about sharing stories, it’s part of what makes us human, and I see the group as a safe place for people to get together and do just that.

If you’re interested in any of the City Reads events you can find programme details here and if you’d like further details of Read to Recovery please click here.

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