The Christian Science Monitor

How this man helps ordinary people feel a book is written just for them

Carsten Sommerfeldt quit his job to bring Shared Reading, in which participants read texts out loud, to Germany. Source: Isabelle de Pommereau

On a recent evening on the outskirts of Heidelberg, a city in southern Germany with a long tradition of writers and philosophers, five young women and a man have come together to read prose and poetry out loud. They meet inside a colorful 1970s-era housing block that serves as a center for migrants during the day. There is a plate of cookies on the table and tea, black and herb. No smartphones.

Dakhaz Hossin, a young mother with long black hair, rushes in. She’s frazzled, having left her brothers and son to join the group. She begins to relax as Carsten Sommerfeldt, a white-bearded man in his 50s, passes around the story to be shared this evening. He starts to read the story out loud, pronouncing each word clearly. One might think he is a university professor.

Ms. Hossin takes in the words from “The Thief,” by Indian writer Ruskin Bond. She lets the story sink in before sharing her thoughts. In the story, Arun is a bad person, she says, a thief taking advantage of his friend. “What do you mean?” Mr. Sommerfeldt says encouragingly, probingly. Her comments trigger a round of soul-searching questions

After a while, a one-way streetThe housing blockOver in FrankfurtOther groups building a sense of community

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