Reading Round

The RLF Reading Round is a unique network of reading groups. The groups differ in a number of ways from traditional-style book groups: most importantly, each group is run by a practising author (who has worked for at least two years in the RLF Fellowship scheme.) The group leaders, or ‘lectors’, may be playwrights, poets, writers of fiction or non-fiction: all are able to offer a unique ‘insider’s’ perspective on the texts under discussion.

readinground There’s no reading to be done either before or after the sessions. Instead, each week the group listens to a different piece, or pieces, of writing that the lector reads out loud. The selected writing might be a short story, poem, speech, memoir or piece of narrative non-fiction. The piece is then discussed at some length to get under the skin of the text: What effects does it have on us as we read? How does it achieve those effects? Guided by the lector, participants consider the text in detail, looking at tone, choice of words, viewpoint, the effect of a certain image or turn of phrase, and so on.

Groups are run loosely along the lines of practical criticism, whereby readers are encouraged to respond afresh to the words on the page in front of them, rather than relying on preconceived ideas about a text. All that is required of participants is a willingness to listen, discuss and be open to new ideas. For many participants, the group provides a valuable opportunity to meet with other word lovers in a friendly, stimulating and relaxed environment.

One of the Lectors explains:
‘Reading Round sessions tend to be more intensive than conventional reading groups and more incisive. They focus on the mechanics of a text, on its language, structure and artistry rather than just on its narrative and characterisation. Liking a book is one thing, but discovering why one likes it is another. Most people have responded very positively: they like the element of discovery, appreciate the more impromptu approach and welcome the critical focus.’

What are the benefits?

The broad aim of a Reading Round group is to familiarise its members with excellent and inspiring writing and – for those who are already keen readers – to introduce them to a wider range of literature than they might have discovered alone.

Participation helps develop members’ critical thinking skills group; members notice more, appreciate why the text has been written the way it has, and perhaps become aware of how the writer is manipulating them.

The goal is not to agree or to arrive at a definitive reading of the text; it is to gain a deeper understanding.