It may sound like using the mold spores from the back corners of used book stores to rejuvenate your skin, but it’s not! This woman’s retreat into reading during difficult times gave her the idea to start bringing that refuge to others.

Over the years, I’ve set up reading and writing groups in prisons, for men in pubs in the Yorkshire dales and, more recently, with a lovely bunch of bus drivers in Bristol. I’ve seen how understanding and confidence grows when individuals are encouraged to explore their experience through story. It gives a fresh perspective. A distance. Anger and resentment can dissipate. And because we’re sharing a bit of ourselves when we’re talking about books, friendships develop. Research by the OECD has shown that reading for pleasure is a higher indication of academic success than parental status or income. In human, educational and economic terms, reading matters to us all.

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