Jo Wedderspoon_2

Joanne Wedderspoon

Development Manager

Charities Aid Foundation


11 February 2019

Regional area:            North West
Sector:                         Health & Wellbeing
Social investment:     £100,000 unsecured loan


The Reader is an award-winning social enterprise, based in Liverpool and operating nationally.  Their mission is to bring about a reading revolution so that everyone can experience and enjoy great literature, which they believe is a tool for helping humans survive and live well. Everything they do – from their shared reading groups, social enterprises and publications to The Reader Storybarn – creates lively, connected, warm communities by bringing people together and books to life.

In 2014 CAF Venturesome provided The Reader with a £100,000 unsecured loan to enable them to expand their management and delivery team to develop their capacity and operate at a larger scale. 

Evolving from the work of a part-time teacher at University of Liverpool, started in 2001, The Reader has a growing movement of 1,000 volunteers and through their partnerships in the health sector, they are bringing over 2,500 people together each month to enjoy and experience literature’s life-supporting benefits through live reading aloud and group discussion. By reading with school groups, families, adults, looked after children, older people in care homes, adults with physical and/or mental health conditions, people coping with or recovering from addiction and individuals in the criminal justice system, their work is helping to improve well-being, reduce isolation and build stronger communities.

A group of people reading

A different kind of medicine

They recently published social impact statistics of attending a shared reading group and the results are as follows:

Group member impact:

  • 94% look forward to the group as an important event in their week
  • 91% say the shared reading sessions make them feel better
  • 81% say the group helps them relate to others in a deeper way
  • 83% have made new friends within the shared reading group

Volunteer impact:

  • 88% said volunteering “helped them feel more connected to other people”
  • 84% said volunteering had “improved my well-being”
  • 94% said shared reading sessions “made them feel better”
  • 92% said they would recommend volunteering with The Reader to other people

A part of the heritage of Liverpool

In 2013 The Reader began the restoration project of Calderstones Mansion House in Liverpool as its headquarters. The Reader Mansion House is a place where anyone can go to experience literature, find and share meaning, be nourished, develop new skills, explore creativity and, above all, feel valued as part of ‘something real’. The Reader Mansion House is also home to the International Centre for Shared Reading – a centre of excellence that is open to anyone who wants to begin or develop their shared reading practice.

The social investment from CAF Venturesome enabled The Reader to invest in its staff team at a time when it had ambitious plans to scale up the delivery of its activities, securing it a firm foundation in the heritage of Liverpool and allowing it to expand its shared reading groups nationally. Five years later, it has done just that, and has fully repaid the social investment.

“CAF Venturesome social investment played an important role in The Reader’s growth. Boosting cash flow during a period of rapid organisational development, we used the loan to recruit key posts in The Reader in advance of securing income. Big thanks to the CAF Venturesome team for helping bring about the reading revolution!”

Sophie Clarke, Director of Communities and Communications, The Reader

If you're a social organisation looking for help or a philanthropist looking to have more impact, talk to our team on 03000 123 300 or email us at and we’ll be happy to help.