Shared reading in assisted living

Shared reading groupI’m intrigued by the idea of shared reading as a group activity in assisted living communities. A British nonprofit, called The Reader Organization, works to bring people together to read literature as a shared experience. TRO sponsors facilitated weekly groups where participants read aloud and listen to stories and poetry. I applaud their programs in prisons, libraries, and community centers, but I’m especially interested in the ones they’ve set up for the elderly.

The key elements of TRO’s model are:

  • Literature. A rich, varied, non-prescriptive diet of serious literature, including a mix of fiction and poetry.
  • Read Aloud. Making the literature accessible to participants through reading aloud ensures that everyone can take part regardless of educational, ethnic, or cultural background. Readers can control their own involvement, contributing as much or as little as they like, according to mood and confidence levels.
  • Shared. The sharing of personal ideas and feelings in response to literature is open to everyone and allows people to connect in both the reading experience and a supportive community.
  • Weekly. Groups meet every week, offering valuable continuity and structure.

An evaluation of TRO’s work with dementia patients can be found in a report titled Read to Care. It includes quantitative and qualitative analyses as well as recommendations for the future.

TRO offers several anthologies with short stories, excerpts from books, and poetry that work well for shared reading. A Little, Aloud is a 480 page anthology of prose and poetry with short introductions and discussion topics for each. A Little, Aloud With Love is another anthology, but with love as the theme for selections.

If you’d like to try shared reading with a loved one or a group of elders, you’re welcome to use some of my favorite poems. They’re all in the public domain, so you can make copies and don’t need to worry about copyright. Let me know how it goes.

Molly S.


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