Who We Are

The Exeter Care Homes Reading Project is about strengthening the connections between young and old in the local community, and making a difference in the daily lives of those living in residential care, and especially residents with dementia. Our Reading Project student volunteers are trained and sent out to a large number of care homes across Exeter. They visit residents regularly, reading poetry, plays, and short stories, and simply spend time chatting. We believe that something as simple as giving time to others can have a profound effect on their quality of life, dignity, and happiness, and we aim to do this through sharing literature and talking with them. If you know of a care home that would like our student volunteers to visit, please get in touch!

How We Began

The Reading Project began in the English Department at Exeter University in October 2011. Pioneered by Dr Johanna Harris, Lecturer in English, and strongly supported by the student-led English Society, the Project quickly became one of the University’s most successful student volunteer initiatives. In the first year of operation, over 100 students in English volunteered; in 2012-13, over 160 students were signed up. Since then, we have consistently had over 100 volunteers annually. We have featured on BBC Breakfast, BBC Spotlight (South West), Radio 2 and Radio 4, print and online newspapers, Care Talk magazine, and we spoke at the Du Maurier Literary Festival in May 2013.

In September 2015 we were named the 350th ‘Points of Light’ winner by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Our Vision

At a time when relationships between the young and the elderly in wider society are under increasing strain and cynicism exists on both sides, and at a time when daily life in care homes is under increasing scrutiny, often leaving residents more isolated than ever, we aim to strengthen links and promote understanding, recognizing that positive intergenerational relationships are key to a healthy community. Through a shared love of stories and poems, the conversations they spark and the human emotions they speak of and into, common ground is found. Our vision is to see this model transported across the UK, with more and more universities joining the endeavour, by harnessing the potential of students to be agents of change within their local communities.