Man Booker International Prize-winning translator and publisher Deborah Smith is to support national charity The Reader by match-funding donations to the total value of £5,000.
The Reader brings people together through its Shared Reading model which features weekly groups where stories and poems are read aloud. These groups are a "friendly, welcoming space" for group members to form real connections with literature and with each other. "It’s a simple idea but it has a huge impact, particularly for older people experiencing mental health issues", said the organisers.
The money will be used to train and support volunteer Reader Leaders, and bring Shared Reading groups to older people in care homes and community settings across the Doncaster borough.
Every donation made online between Tuesday 28th November and Tuesday 5th December will be match-funded by Smith. Alongside CHK Charities Ltd and one other private donor, Smith is donating £5,000 match-funding on the condition that both this money and the amount it matches – up to £10,000 in total – be spent in Doncaster. “I really hope everyone who reads this gives whatever they can,” she said. “Even a small amount could be genuinely life-changing.”
Smith, who won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for translating The Vegetarian (Portobello) by South Korean author Han Kang, was at a literature showcase hosted by Writers Centre Norwich when she heard The Reader's founder Jane Davis give a talk about the charity's work.
Smith was born and grew up in Doncaster, and left London last year to move back to South Yorkshire. “Ever since I won the prize I've been agonising over what to do with the money, and when I heard about the work The Reader does I thought 'I want that to happen in Doncaster'. Literature has opened so many doors for me and growing up I felt like my real education came from reading books from my local library, so it's really important to me to be able to give something back. Reading has so many amazing benefits for mental and physical health, which is why the idea that you have to have money or a particular education to access it is so damaging and dangerous. Books should be for everybody – my life would have been completely different without them", she said.
As Rose, a 77 year-old care home resident, told Reader Leader Chris, who runs her group: “I look forward to the poems and I look forward to you talking. We’re all pleased about you coming. We feel like somebody cares. If you didn’t come, we’d have nothing to think about. It’s surprising what it does to the mind. Your mind starts wandering when you’re unhappy, it wanders too much. After you’ve been and we’ve read these poems, I think it helps a lot. Everything seems clearer. I often think about them after you’ve left.”
For further information and to donate visit the Reader's website.