TIVERTON Library and The Hayridge in Cullompton are two centres in Devon hosting a pioneering scheme designed to improve people’s memory and mental wellbeing through shared reading.

Devon County Council has joined forces with national charity The Reader Organisation to expand the successful ‘Get Into Reading' programme and create 'Reading Together in Devon' - a county-wide network of memory and reading groups.

A year-long pilot was launched in libraries in Tiverton and two years ago and was deemed so successful that a further £100,000 has been invested in the scheme by the council to create and run a total of five ‘Library Memory Groups’ for those with memory loss conditions and their carers.

It is also hoped seven ‘Feel Better with a Book’ groups for those wanting to lift their mood and engage with others will be a success.

Run by specially trained facilitators from The Reader Organisation, the free weekly groups are small, supportive and friendly gatherings where people can come and share reading and make connections with literature in a relaxing environment.

The facilitator reads the text aloud, and group members are encouraged to join in as little or as much as they wish. Material includes novels, short stories, poems and plays.

The 'Library Memory Groups' give people with dementia and other memory loss conditions the opportunity to share the experience of listening to well loved stories and poems and share their responses with the group - encouraging recollection and interaction through reading.

Evidence shows that sharing reading stimulates memories, interest and conversation.

Cllr Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “The power of a good book is outstanding. Sharing reading as part of a group is a really enjoyable experience, and can also help improve wellbeing, boost confidence, self-esteem and combat isolation. These groups can also help people find new ways of expressing feeling and understanding through sharing their thoughts, asking questions and discussing issues a story raises.

“For those with memory loss conditions, listening to well-loved poems and short stories can often remind them of important aspects of their own lives and stimulate memories.

"Everyone's general wellbeing can also benefit greatly from connecting with others or meeting new people.

“I’m delighted that we are investing in this scheme as we must continue to do all we can to provide innovative ways to support people in living fulfilled lives for longer.”

The groups will start the week beginning Monday 21 January 2013, and are taking place in the following libraries.

Feel Better With a Book Groups.

Bideford Library - Wednesdays from 10.30-12noon Phone: 01237 476075.

Exeter Central Library (Hoskins Room) - Tuesdays from 10.30-12noon Phone: 01392 384223.

The Hayridge, Cullompton - Fridays from 2-3.30pm Phone: 01392 388400.

Ilfracombe Library (Community Room) - Tuesdays from 2-3.30pm Phone: 01271 862388.

Tavistock Library - Wednesdays from 2-3.30pm Phone: 01822 612218.

Tiverton Library - Fridays from 10.30-12noon Phone: 01884 244644.

Totnes Mansion House - Fridays from 2-3.30pm (Harberton Room) Phone: 01803 862210.

Library Memory Groups.

Barnstaple Library - Tuesdays from 10.30-12noon Phone 01271 388593 Exeter Central Library (Hoskins Room) - Wednesdays from 10.30-12noon Phone: 01392 384223.

Exmouth Library - Wednesdays from 3-4.30pm Phone: 01395 272677.

Ivybridge Library - Wednesdays 10.30-12noon Phone: 01752 893140.

Passmore Edwards Centre, Newton Abbot - Tuesdays 2.00-3.30pm Phone: 01392 384012.

For more information please contact Devon County Council’s Customer Service Centre on 0845 155 1001 or log on to www.devon.gov.uk/getintoreading