Old Friends, New Friends, New Stories.

Ana, Judy and I have become very close to the Selwyn shared reading group participants
over the last two years and the group itself has really bonded. Residents come from all
over the village and say that they would not otherwise have met, if not for this group. This
week Rhonda said “Four words…Hate To Miss It.” Margarita said “By sharing the
stories, it brings about a splendid interaction between people who may not otherwise
meet.” Val said a few months ago how much she looks forward to it and how
disappointed she is when widespread illness among Caswell residents means she is
not allowed to attend. The group is inclusive of those with disabilities including visual
impairments. Bert regularly attends, as all materials are read aloud he may enjoy the
stories, poetry and discussion even though his eyesight does not permit him to read.
When Bert first began attending he said he was “surprised how much he enjoyed it
and how much he personally got out of it.” Shared reading can surprise people who
may not read a lot privately as the experience of social reading is quite different to
reading alone.

Some of the women in the group have known each other for many years. They are
still surprised, touched or amused by the memories of these old friends that come
up in relation to the stories that we read. Due to the diversity of the materials that
we read, shared reading provides the opportunity to access and share memories
that one may not have thought of for years or that may not have been relevant in
every day conversations. These memories also build connections between group
members who do not know each other well. One example of this was triggered by
a line in the Patricia Grace story Waiariki which mentions seeing the American
ships go by all lit up. James mentioned being given gum and sweets by the
American soldiers as a child. Alicia had the same experience in South Africa and Jo
in England. They were touched at the thought that they were all small children
across the world having the same experience and shared anecdotes.
This group has been intellectually challenged, built confidence and curiosity and
has cemented and created new social bonds between residents, as the women
themselves say “It keeps us sharp!”

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