I have never been into poetry in my 62 years of living. I arrogantly always felt it to be quite la-di-da and a bit too ‘up in the clouds’ for me… All that changed when Sue and I set up a Shared Reading group in our church last September. We were trained by a wonderful organisation called the Reader, who have 600 groups operating around the country. As you may have guessed, poetry (and extracts of books) play a large part in the weekly sessions.

Suddenly I was in charge of the weekly poem! On the advice of a close friend I chose ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ by William Wordsworth as my first poem. After reading it someone in our group proudly proclaimed that they knew this poem by heart. ‘Off you go then’, I said and she recited it from memory.

Someone else in the group, who arrived in a wheelchair, then spoke up at the end of our session. He said; ‘I went to a boy’s school and we all had to recite this poem altogether as a group.’ It was a wonderful first meeting. We got to know about a book, a poem, each other and since then these weekly term time Tuesday groups (1.30 – 3PM) are among the highlight of my week.

Last Tuesday we all read an extract from ‘Little Women’ and totally coincidentally, my wife and I went to see the recent film that evening. All those present at our group were impacted by this book in their youths and the film also is a definite feel good story!

In our Christian faith we believe in a God who loves books. He inspired, in our view, the best one ever, the Bible, written by over 40 different authors and the world’s bestselling book. What I love the most about my faith and this book the Bible is that it is a feelgood story with a great ending, where God will wipe away all tears in His Kingdom. Just like Aslan did in my other favourite book ‘The Lion, the Witch and the wardrobe’.

So everyone, have hope in the future because Aslan is on the move! Plus, join our free reading group with coffee, biscuits & cake and lots of laughter and shared memories. Ring Dirk on 07847 739533 for more info.

Shared Reading by phone?

Why don’t we give the people in our group the book ‘A Little Aloud’ so we can continue doing our shared reading? Just before coronavirus lockdown 23.3.20 I posted the books we had through the letter boxes of our members. Twelve people were given the chapter about the Railway children to read and we were off!

Each Tuesday and Wednesday Sue and I ring the participants and talk about their thoughts on the story and the poem. We have discovered that in this ‘lockdown’ period it is impossible to make a short phone call because most of us have acres of time during these days… So we have lengthy conversations about what we’ve read but also support each other during a difficult time.

The group has now grown to about sixteen and the latest addition is a couple who came to the first session with the husband in a wheelchair. They didn’t come again because it was too hard to get ready each week. But doing SR over the phone has changed this completely so she is now part of the group and will get supportive calls every week.

We’ve all had great fun with ‘Pickwick Papers’ by Charles Dickens but the best to many was the short story called ‘Faith and Hope go shopping’ by Joanne Harris. A laugh out loud and also tender story about two elderly women who escape from their care home to go to London.

Shared Reading has given all of us a reason to be in regular contact while also enquiring about each other’s wellbeing during this challenging and often isolating time. There is still life with a capital L to be found during these corona virus days. God bless you all.

Dirk Uitterdijk
West Kirby Methodist Church Community Worker