'Reading for Life'

Prison Reading Groups in Practice and Theory

in Critical Survey
Josie Billington University of Liverpool Jbilling@liverpool.ac.uk

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This article considers the theoretical and practice-based evidence for the therapeutic effects of the shared reading of literature (poetry, fiction, plays, short stories) in prison communities. Taking as its starting point recent research and practice relating to the successful intervention ('Get into Reading') pioneered by UK charity The Reader Organisation, the article situates the components of this model in the context of established theories of reader response, as well as new research on reading and the brain. Yet its focus is always shared reading in practice and, through specific examples and testimony from prisoners and those who read with them (including health professionals), the article demonstrates the vital relation of this intervention to current recommendations in respect of the mental health needs of prisoners. It also offers a possible model for future interdisciplinary research in this field.

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