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Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Dementia reading group launched in Devon libraries
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon

Books on a library shelf

A new project in two of Devon's libraries is hoping to help people with dementia in the county.

Devon County Council has joined forces with charity The Reader Organisation to promote the benefits of reading aloud to stimulate memories and imagination.

Colin Bray from Devon Library Services came up with the idea with Sarah Hopkins from the charity last year.

And the first of the 12 sessions - at Exeter Central Library - was held on 16 February 2011.

The weekly groups are designed to be small, supportive and friendly gatherings where people with memory problems can listen to well-loved short stories and poems

"They can often touch people and remind them of important aspects of their own lives," said Colin.

"They will be reading things like Dickens and Laurie Lee and poetry by John Betjeman and Robert Frost."

Once the reading is finished, they will then have an opportunity to share their responses to encourage recollection and the sharing of memories through reading.

Tiverton Library
The sessions will also run at Tiverton Library

The 12-week course at Exeter Central Library will take place on Wednesdays between 10.30 - 11.30am and at Tiverton Library on Fridays between 10.30 - 11.30am from Friday 18 February.

The sessions are free of charge to all participants, and carers are welcome.

And Councillor Stuart Barker thinks the groups will be a positive experience for those who take part.

"It gives them the opportunity to meet with people in a relaxing and friendly social group to share in the enjoyment and entertainment of reading aloud while sharing life experiences, and hopefully helping improve their memory," he said.

So what does Colin hope those taking part will get out of the reading sessions?

"I think pleasure is one of the main things and entertainment and then hopefully sharing of experiences now or from the past.

"Reading can prompt things from deeper parts of the mind, like music does."

And Colin has his own reasons for being interested in the outcome of the project - his own grandmother is in residential care suffering from Alzheimer's.

"I saw how quickly she deteriorated and so you do wonder what things might have helped - something like this may have been one of those things that might have helped her keep her mind agile - but it's too late to know now."

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