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Shared Reading: assessing the intrinsic value of a literature-based health intervention
  1. Eleanor Longden1,
  2. Philip Davis1,2,
  3. Josie Billington1,2,
  4. Sofia Lampropoulou3,
  5. Grace Farrington4,
  6. Fiona Magee3,
  7. Erin Walsh1,
  8. Rhiannon Corcoran1
  1. 1Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3School of English, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  4. 4The Reader Organisation, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Philip Davis, Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, Room 213 Whelan Building, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GB, UK; P.M.Davis{at}


Public health strategies have placed increasing emphasis on psychosocial and arts-based strategies for promoting well-being. This study presents preliminary findings for a specific literary-based intervention, Shared Reading, which provides community-based spaces in which individuals can relate with both literature and one another. A 12-week crossover design was conducted with 16 participants to compare benefits associated with six sessions of Shared Reading versus a comparison social activity, Built Environment workshops. Data collected included quantitative self-report measures of psychological well-being, as well as transcript analysis of session recordings and individual video-assisted interviews. Qualitative findings indicated five intrinsic benefits associated with Shared Reading: liveness, creative inarticulacy, the emotional, the personal and the group (or collective identity construction). Quantitative data additionally showed that the intervention is associated with enhancement of a sense of ‘Purpose in Life’. Limitations of the study included the small sample size and ceiling effects created by generally high levels of psychological well-being at baseline. The therapeutic potential of reading groups is discussed, including the distinction between instrumental and intrinsic value within arts-and-health interventions.

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