What is community engagement?

Reading has assumed many different forms among different social groups in different eras. Men and women have read in order to save their souls, to improve their manners, to repair their machinery,to seduce their sweethearts, to learn about current events, and simply to have fun.

Robert Darnton, book historian

What is Community Engagement in ELCE?

Community engagement is a practice-based subject where students are accredited to design, run and reflect upon thier own unique community-based project. Projects tend to explore the role of literature, reading, readers and literacy in everyday life and aim to celebrate the diverse roles of reading, stories and literature in contemporary society.

Students set up projects in a wide range of venues, currently including libraries, pubs, community centres, drug rehabilitation centres and a prison. Students are supported in their community-engaged projects by the ELCE Community Partner Network, a network of community-based organisations and civic institutions in Bristol and beyond who can offer relevant short and long-term placements to ELCE students and/or opportunities to co-develop unique community-engaged projects.

Community engagement is taught through regular seminars and a series of 'masterclasses' with visiting experts from both in and outside of the University. Students are invited to explore the ideas of 'community' and 'engagement' and to examine the belief that reading, stories and literature have value not only to the individual, but also to society and to the wider community. Alongside regular teaching, students are supported in developing their community-engaged project through access to a one-to-one community engagement tutor. 

Some students feel nervous to begin with about the community engagement aspect of the course. But, be reassured that each student has an opportunity to develop a project that fits with their other commitments and which is in a setting in which they feel comfortable.

For many students their project is in the form of a reading group which may read literary works that are also studied on the degree combined with popular fiction, non-fiction, short stories or extracts that are read aloud. However, many students undertake community-engaged projects in completely different ways. The range and diversity of projects our students undertake is something we celebrate and each project is also shaped by the needs, interests and participation of the community with whom the student engages.

Recent Community Engagement Projects


Please contact Acting Programme Director, Craig Savage, on ELCE: elce-ptp-director@bristol.ac.uk for further information about community engagement.

stack of books on two shelves Related stories

ELCE student, Lesley Lees, writes about her experiences of starting a reading group with adults on the autistic spectrum, in the University public-engagement story, 'Words and what they mean'.

The course has been one of the richest experiences of my life

Lee-Ann Jameson
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