Literature isn’t a luxury but a life-changer

Apr 2, 2017 by

Sharing literature with those who wouldn’t otherwise come into contact with it is a joy

Jane Davis –

A long time ago, I sat at a junction in one of Merseyside’s – and Europe’s – most impoverished areas, waiting for the lights, on my way to teach Wordsworth at the university. I noticed a woman waiting at the door of an ex-council house, like one of the houses I’d lived in as a kid – cheaply built, side window covered with plywood, overgrown front garden.

The door was opened by a young woman with a baby in her arms. The baby laughed joyfully at what I took to be the sight of his nan. The phrase “the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm” came to my mind. And at that same moment I thought: “That baby, growing up here, will never read Wordsworth.” That is when I decided to try to get great books out of the university and into the hands of people who need them, by creating The Reader. I wanted a reading revolution.

For me, literature isn’t a luxury that you can choose or not, it’s the source of that life-changer, imagination.

As a child, literature gave me role models and possible worlds. As an adult, it expands my consciousness, putting my mind inside the experience of others. Which is what we all need. “A tough life needs a tough language,” says Jeanette Winterson. “That’s what literature offers. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”

The Reader helps people find the literature that will find them by building shared reading groups. Groups meet weekly, a trained reader leader will have chosen something to read, and will read it aloud. Other group members take a turn with the reading, if they want, or simply listen, as they choose.

We have read with thousands of people who would never have thought that literature – that fancy-pants stuff – had anything to offer them. But shared reading means you don’t need to be a good reader, literary or even literate, to enjoy the emotional and intellectual stimulation of George Saunders, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Winterson, John Clare or any other greats. It’s for everyone.

Source: Literature isn’t a luxury but a life-changer | Jane Davis | Opinion | The Guardian

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