Reading at ARK Homeless Hostel
from Lynn Elsdon, Project Worker, Get Into Reading Wirral
My Get Into Reading group at ARK homeless hostel has been quite exciting in recent weeks. I feel I am becoming a recognised and increasingly accepted face at the hostel, with residents telling me that they look forward to me coming, and saying cheerfully when I arrive ‘the reading lady is here!’
Because of the chaotic nature of the lives of many of the residents, the reading group is, compared to my other GIR groups, much more filled with movement. It can be quite changeable; people pace around, go out for cigarettes, leave half way through or join in half way through, and can become very loud or very quiet alternatingly. The group at the beginning of the session is often very different to the group at the end, in terms of the people present and the atmosphere in the room. I have found that the structures applied to my other Get Into Reading groups, like having a break together at a particular time, are unrealistic at ARK, where people seem to be in vastly different mental places from each other at any given moment, and need more freedom to engage with the group as dynamically as they are feeling.
By fully embracing this, whilst retaining important Get Into Reading values – like ensuring that everyone is being kind and respectful to each other and that everyone is able to have a voice – the group has grown and grown. Residents have told me how relaxing and stimulating they find the group, and I leave feeling slightly exhausted, but also rather thrilled by the engagement that the reading has achieved.