Text: Ann Van de Vloet
You don’t have to be a bookworm to take part in the Brussels reading group NACHTUIL. The texts are read as a group and form the basis for discussion if necessary. It is so surprising how different your reading experience becomes with the methodology of reading together!
There are several together-reading groups active in Flanders. Eliane and Jolanda started one in Brussels under the wings of UilenSpiegel.
No books are discussed, but short text fragments and poems. Based on what is read and how it is read, topics emerge that can be fodder for conversation. No one is obliged to talk, but everyone is given the space to do so.
Reading together provides food for thought. Whichever way you look at it, even a short text fragment can be read and interpreted by each participant in their own way. Everyone has a different background, vision, knowledge… Your view is opened up and broadened by the ‘reading glasses’ of the other participants. Suddenly a text or sentence turns out to mean much more than what you think to yourself the first time you hear or read it. This offers inspiration to adjust or expand your view.
Reading in group might associate you with heavy-handedness. Reading together can be a gateway to tackle topics, difficult or otherwise. But make no mistake, there can also be humour and lightheartedness in the texts.
Or you may think: literature is not for me. The fact that fragments are read and you don’t have to wade through a whole book lowers the threshold to participate anyway. A piece of text that is then also read in snippets makes it manageable and easier to be with. Everyone feels and thinks something about it and chooses for himself whether he wants to talk about it or not. Even in silence, you learn things.
I myself experience reading together as relaxing and connecting. And as a new and surprising methodology, even though I studied literature myself during my studies.
Reading group NACHTUIL
The reading group NACHTUIL is a group of fellow sufferers for people with mental vulnerability. Since September 2022, Eliane Manquoi, a volunteer at UILENSPIEGEL, has led the group on her own.
The open group meets once a month on Saturday mornings in the meeting place Circuit in the heart of Brussels: https://circuitantoninartaud.be/nl/. Each time, a theme is central. Text fragments and/or poems form the starting point to discuss that theme. No preparation is needed. Participants should not have read anything beforehand or stick their noses into books in their spare time. “I have seen participants, who are rather reserved in the beginning, blossom after a few activities. Being able to be yourself among peers, trusting each other and creating a safety to share experiences and feelings are essential values of the NACHTUIL reading group,” says Eliane.
Why the name NACHTUIL for this reading group, I wondered. Eliane explains: “NACHTUIL refers to a little owl who devours texts by a reading light when darkness falls, when he finally has time to read. He hopes to inspire others while discovering texts and stories together. Moreover, the owl is a reference to the name ‘UILENSPIEGEL’ and the owl appears in the organisation’s logo.”
Does this answer make you want to start reading together? In the activity calendar at the back of this Mirror as well as on the website www.uilenspiegel.net you will find the schedule for the coming months.