I’m the Founder and Director of The Reader, which exists to make the reading of literature, and in particular the collaborative read-aloud model we call Shared Reading, part of the fabric of life.
I founded The Reader because I wanted to make it possible for all kinds of people to enjoy the experiences that great writers had provided for me.
The Reader started with the first issue of The Reader magazine (Spring 1997) which my friend and co-reader, Sarah Coley and I created when we were teachers in the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Liverpool. From that small, blurry, badly proof-read seedling, The Reader, as an organisation and as an idea, has grown. Angela Macmillan joined us at Issue no 2 and has been alongside me one way or another ever since.
In that first issue, we wrote:
In Saul Bellow’s novel, Herzog, the eponymous hero — a continuing education tutor in the throes of a nervous breakdown, writes in another crazy letter to his boss,
The people who come to evening classes are only ostensibly after culture. Their great need, their hunger, is for good sense, clarity, truth — even an atom of it. People are dying — it is no metaphor — for lack of something real to carry home when the day is done.
Anyone who has been to Continuing Education classes will have seen, and felt, this hunger for themselves. But what is real, what will give us satisfaction, is not easy to come by or to find.
Twenty years, on I still believe that hunger for ‘something real to take home when day is done’ is the biggest problem we face, and that reading literature together and talking about it is part of an answer to that problem.
My family – I come from a mess and meltdown family which, in some ways, made me who I am. Still thinking about that.
I have been married to Phil since 1983 (Professor Philip Davis, is Director of CRILS – Centre for Research in Reading, Literature and Society at UoL.) We have two children, and four grandchildren, and live in West Kirby, on the Wirral peninsula in the North West of England. I, who have lived in many less lovely spots, count myself lucky.
Brian Nellist, who taught me at University and supervised my Ph.D. thesis (see You Tube Mr Nellist, Nellibobs and read him in The Reader).
My husband Phil, my friend Angie, my parents-in-law, Sid and Sheila, my children. These people gave/give me models for being human.
Doris Lessing, whose novel Shikasta changed my life in 1980, gave me some very good advice. Likewise Bernard Malamud and The Assistant, and George Eliot from whom I still have a lot to learn about the complexities of being human. Dante’s Divine Comedy, read many times over the last thirty years, has, along with the poetry of George Herbert, put structure and light into my interior world while things were burning, collapsing and being recreated. I also owe a lot to Wordsworth’s great poem about the human mind, The Prelude. And Milton. Yes – I dare to read Paradise Lost without the critical apparatus…
I am grateful for time I spend in my garden, and Phil and I have season tickets for Liverpool FC. Very pleased with Mr Klopp, thank-you.
I’m happy when walking on Caldy Hill and along our estuary beaches and I mourn my dog, Davy, who used to give me occasion to take those walks. He was very handsome, a fine nurse, full of feeling, and a deep source of joy – apart from his tendency to wallow in filthy ditch-water or to roll on dead seabirds, when he became a source of fury and rage. Mark Doty’s poem ‘Golden Retrievals’ sums it up. He saw me through some of the hardest times of my life, and died in 2011.
Davy running on Caldy Hill 2011