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3 Festivals for 2024


Hear what our volunteers have to say about their Shared Reading experiences

Medha’s volunteering story

Medha volunteers with us with an online Shared Reading group every two weeks for an hour.

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m originally from Mumbai and arrived in the UK in 2022 to study for a MA in Creative Writing at the University of Derby. I’ve always loved books, stories and reading – for me they are an escape into different worlds and can ignite the imagination.

Why did you volunteer on our Shared Reading project?

I saw an advert appealing for volunteers for the Shared Reading project during a Derby Book Festival event and I was intrigued about what this was. I liked the idea of sharing words and literature with other people. I volunteered on this project as it was flexible and the commitment was two hours a fortnight on Zoom which I felt I could manage whilst I was studying. My role is to keep the group conversation going around the chosen poem or short story and ensure everyone feels included and listened to. The volunteer training by Derby Book Festival really helped me and they are always on hand if I need some help or advice.

What impact did volunteering have on you?

My experience of volunteering has been so positive; it’s been so uplifting for me. Volunteering gave me a structure – something I knew I had committed to each fortnight. I’ve been introduced to all kinds of literature – quotations, short stories, letters and poetry. It’s so interesting listening to the experiences of the group and how different types of literature can spark a conversation. I found I had lots to contribute too – even some of my own writing! It’s really helped me hone some of my skills which I know I will be able use in my future career.

What impact do you think SR had on the group?

I can see how the group really respects and trusts each other. Each person has a chance to read out loud and everyone listens. It’s amazing how one piece of literature can lead to long discussions about…well almost anything. I thought the sessions would be a little like school – analysing the literature but this isn’t how it is. It’s open, friendly and everyone contributes in their own way.

After volunteering for a few weeks I appreciated the importance of the online session for the group. They’ll all send in poetry or song lyrics or short stories around a theme and then we’d read them together. I can see the comfort it brings to everyone. It’s also good fun – we always have a giggle and laugh about something. The hour online flies past and often we’ve only got through 2-3 pieces of literature, but that’s fine as the others will be read at the next session. It’s a no-stress experience!

What advice would you give to someone thinking of volunteering?

I’d say – definitely try it out. It’s perfect for students as it’s only two hours every two weeks so you can easily arrange this around studies. You get to know other people you wouldn’t usually meet and they get so much out of listening to students. I know I am learning a lot from them which is really helping with my creative writing studies.

I feel good – upbeat and positive after each session and no one can say that’s not a good thing!

We’re looking for volunteers to join us for two hours every two weeks to help run Shared Reading sessions throughout Derby. Pop us an email and we’ll get in contact with you for a chat on what volunteering opportunities are right for you.

David’s volunteering story

David volunteers with us on our Shared Reading programme at Derby College with young people aged 16-18 years attending a LEXIS* course.

Tell us a little about yourself

My career was initially in banking and finance and then I started to work with teenagers developing enterprise and work-related skills. I’m now retired and have continued to have a particular interest in helping young people.

Why did you volunteer on our Shared Reading project?

I’ve always volunteered and was looking for a new area where my skills and interests would work together. I’m a supporter of Derby Book Festival, so the Shared Reading programme seemed to offer a good opportunity for me. I volunteer with two other Shared Reading volunteers and we run sessions every week for an hour with young people during term time at the Roundhouse in Derby.

What impact did volunteering have on you?

As a volunteer, you really feel valued and needed by both the students and the tutors at Derby College. Volunteers receive such a warm welcome. You really feel the work you do makes a difference – that’s not always the case with other volunteer opportunities. There’s a mix of male and female students, so it’s good to have that reflected with the volunteers too.

Each Shared Reading session has a different theme, and we source reading material for the students working with the tutors from Derby College. We work in small groups with the students reading aloud and then we chat about what they have read. The enthusiasm of the students to take part in Shared Reading has had an enormous impact on me. They desperately want to learn English so our work helps them become more confident in English conversation. Working with the same group of young people over an academic year means we can build trusted relationships. I’ve learnt so much from the students – about where they have come from and their culture – it’s definitely a 2-way relationship, a shared experience, definitely not a teacher/student relationship. It’s so rewarding to work with students that want to learn – they are very engaged.

What impact do you think Shared Reading has had on the group?

The feedback from tutors and students has been incredibly positive and gives me confidence that we have made a difference in the lives of these young people. There are eight LEXIS groups at Derby College – we work with one of these groups. The LEXIS tutor says that the confidence of the students has increased and they have performed better at their end-of-year exams than students in the other groups – so we know that Shared Reading has helped.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of volunteering?

If you like working with young people, this is an excellent volunteering opportunity. There are so many young people at Derby College who want to join the Shared Reading sessions, but can’t as there are not enough volunteers. Shared Reading really makes an impact that can change a young person’s life. I’ve just signed up for another year’s volunteering with LEXIS students up to May 2024.

We definitely need more volunteers. If you want to help enthusiastic and engaged students, then I’d encourage you to join as a volunteer on the Shared Reading programme.

If you’re thinking of volunteering and would like to talk to David, get in touch with us at and we’ll connect you.

*LEXIS: This programme is for 16-19-year-old students whose first language is not English. It helps students learn English and gain qualifications so they can progress further in education or employment.