Founder and Director
Follow Jane on Twitter: @readerjanedavis
Jane left school at sixteen with two GCSEs, a bright kid with loads of family problems; school seemed irrelevant but books had always offered escape routes, doors, clear spaces.
“In my early to mid-teens,” says Jane, “as a runaway and drug-user, Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days was a touchstone for me. How could anyone think that high-brow or elitist? I loved it because my life told me it was true.”
Later on, as a young single mother, she returned to education, and was lucky to find a great teacher in Brian Nellist in the School of English at the University of Liverpool. She gained a First Class degree and spent three years writing a PhD under Brian’s supervision: ‘Visionary Realism – from George Eliot to Doris Lessing’, mapping out a series of thoughts about how books give us a way of holding complex and divergent truths.
In 1986 Jane married Philip Davis, a lecturer in the School of English at the University of Liverpool (and now editor of The Reader magazine and Head of School of the Arts). Having completed her PhD Jane taught for fifteen years in the Department of Continuing Education at Liverpool, and set up The Reader magazine as a way of getting the excitement of her reading-together based courses out into the wider world.
Literary magazines cost money, so Jane and the magazine team hosted Readers’ Days and other events to bring people together and to generate income. These absolutely non-academic gatherings begin to convince Jane that there was a role for literature in the world beyond University English.
“I realised that what I’d always believed about literature, that it can help people understand and make decisions about their lives, to be undeniably true: that it can get people excited about thinking, and build kindness and community. Literature is not an aesthetic experience but practical help for being human.”
Since 1997, Jane has wanted to make a bigger place for books and reading in the heart of the nation, to bring about a Reading Revolution because, while the other arts do all kinds of wonderful things, only books allow us to fully understand and articulate the human experience. Having complex languages, such as we find in literary texts, is a vital bit of equipment for realising human potential.
“I was so dismayed that such a tiny minority of the population ever got to read George Herbert, or George Eliot or Dante that I set to get books out of the University and into the hands of people who, I felt, could really benefit from them. And they did.”
Jane is a noted and inspiring speaker, whether talking about the pioneering work of The Reader Organisation, or about readers or reading, or about particular books or poems. She is invited to participate in many conferences and seminars across a broad range of sectors, including health, education, libraries, wellbeing, social enterprise, volunteering, and elderly care.
If you would like to invite Jane to speak or to attend your event, please contact Jen Tomkins, Communications Manager: email@example.com ; 0151 207 7228