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Reading for LIfe

The course is helping to break down barriers between young and older people. 

Shared love of literature brings generations together

A shared love of literature has brought together University of Exeter undergraduates and older city residents, who studied alongside each other in a new course.

They are different generations, and have vastly different lives and interests. But when it comes to novels and poems the group have found much in common.

University of Exeter students and students from the Exeter University of the Third Age all attended the same English undergraduate module, which teaches them about the value of literature in society.

The course, Reading for Life: Literature, Emotion, and Community, was the idea of Dr Johanna Harris, Senior Lecturer in English, and is helping to break down barriers between young and older people. 

During the past term U3A members have attended weekly two-hour seminars with the students, and have also had the option of attending the weekly hour-long morning lectures. Students and U3A members have also contributed to the course blog and worked together on the students’ community projects, both are compulsory assessed elements of the undergraduate course.

Dr Harris said: “The buzz of interaction between the students and the U3A members in this new module has exceeded all my hopes and expectations. Not only has the discussion been consistently fascinating, with a diverse range of perspectives offered on the module’s books each and every week, but it has always been polite, honest, and encouraging.

“Reading is a profoundly personal and deeply meaningful activity, and this fact has made our discussions not only disarmingly honest on many occasions, but also warm and mutually enriching for that very reason. In my view, the intergenerational learning context has been profoundly rewarding.”

Trudi Learmouth, from U3A, said those participating in the module all agreed it was a wonderful opportunity.

“We have learned a lot from both the students and fellow U3A members. Those who participated feel they have learned to read in more depth and to communicate more effectively what they have enjoyed and taken from their reading,” she said.

“Our members really appreciated the opportunity to learn alongside university students again and to hear their views. It has been a privilege to get to know others from different backgrounds and life experiences and find common ground and shared understanding.”

Date: 13 April 2017

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