Verbal has recently launch a pilot evaluation into the effectiveness of their Reading Rooms shared reading model in promoting “the positive mental health and wellbeing of adults”
The scheme, working with people known to social services and the criminal justice system, asked users to complete a pre-evaluation questionnaire, measuring broad areas of wellbeing. Key finding showed that all users met a clinical level of anxiety and depression, with half meeting a severe level.
The scheme aims to show how the benefits of group reading can aid in lowering anxiety, and boosting self-esteem. Over the course of twelve week programme, the voluntary participants will together read poems and stories with a trained facilitator, giving them the opportunity to discuss and share their opinions and experiences in relation to the literature. Each piece, selected by Reading Rooms’ Literary Guide, is annotated with notes reacting to the text, asking key questions about characters, theme and plot.
Aoife Lyons, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner and Psychology Intern at Verbal: “As all the discussions explored in Reading Rooms are done through the characters in the literature, rather than direct personal disclosure, this allows participants to freely react and speak out about their own views. Through general questioning, rather than spelling out issues, people can openly talk and develop.” Safeguarding measures are taken throughout, with users signposted to external mental health services for support if required.
The programme will act as an opportunity to identify the strengths of Reading Rooms, as well as recognise areas where it can improve moving forward. Literature uses so far in the scheme include such classic as A Doll’s House by Katherine Mansfield, Chekov’s The Bet, and poetry by Edgar Allen Poe and John Clare.