Leeds Library and Information Service

Leeds Library and Information Service have introduced a weekly Reading Together group for migrants and refugees at one of Leeds Libraries. Each week prose and / or poetry is read to help with new vocabulary and discuss the meaning of the chosen text.

The group has been extremely successful with a range of positive impacts reported by all participants. In the time the group has been running, members have said that it is the favourite part of their week.

‘Our group feels like a new family that helps me have the sense of belonging’
‘I look forward to the meeting as the highlight of my week.’
‘Reading aloud and being read to was like returning to my childhood’
‘The poems give me hope and courage that I may also rise again from a period of wastage, damage and hurt.’

’We can now expand the project and establish a second Reading Together group at another one of Leeds Libraries. The new group will be aimed at people from diverse communities living near the Library including refugees, asylum seekers and recent migrants. The group will run weekly to provide a sense of community for attendees who might feel isolated, especially if they are new to the country and / or speak little English.

The aim is for the group members to improve their English communication skills. In the longer term, participants will improve their confidence and the impact of this will be seen in improved social skills, employability skills or in their interactions with people from other communities.

The group will use a variety of books, resources and software to introduce participants to the English Language and help them practice their English in an enjoyable way. Games and visual prompts will be used to structure conversations and encourage people to tell us how they are feeling. As participants grow in confidence and their writing skills improve, we will use the group sessions to encourage individuals to create poems or written pieces of work.

Both groups will be enhanced through the new books and resources bought by Better World Books and used exclusively by the Reading Together participants.

The overall aim of Reading Together project is to reduce social isolation and make participants feel more connected to their wider communities. To that end, we will bring the existing group and the new group together to share experiences and achievements. A celebration event hosted by a guest poet will be held after both groups have been running for some time. If our second Reading Together group is as successful as our first then we will be looking at developing more groups in areas of the city with high concentrations of refugee or migrant communities.

The Reading Together project offers a safe, neutral space where people can come together and share experiences using a common language.