A reading group based in Hackney promotes the benefit of reading for its customers and chose a range of publications by black authors to celebrate Black History Month in October.

Lizzie Tear, an Assistant Housing Support worker based in London who organises the group, tells us more:

I host the Read Together group every Thursday at our mental health service in Marsh Hill, Hackney and our aim is to promote reading for pleasure and positive mental wellbeing.

Reading can help us to escape, build empathy, use our imaginations and realise we are not alone. It doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit – reading can bring people together.

During the sessions we use reading aloud as a shared, relaxing, therapeutic activity. Members share anecdotes, understanding and funny accents! Reading together can also build confidence and self-esteem for our customers.

For Black History Month in October, we specifically chose books by black authors, and particularly enjoyed excerpts from “A Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela. We also read and enjoyed the works of other authors such as Andrea Levy, Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison.

Members of the group have become friends and regularly attend every week with one customer commenting:

I feel very safe here, and I can be myself.

Another, who has previously spent time in prison, related to Nelson Mandela’s struggles behind bars and opened up about his own experience, even laughing about the similarities.

One of our other members has a gift for doing different accents. We all take a part when the story demands it with another customer commenting:

I haven’t laughed so much in ages!

We at Read Together have recognised, appreciated and celebrated the heritage, culture and diverse communities we have here in Britain.

We look forward to learning more, and reading more, next year!

To find out more about the group, please email Alex Marshall.