The Reading Agency launch new campaign to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through the proven power of reading.

Read, Talk, Share, is an initiative aimed at combating loneliness and to promote wellbeing through the proven power of reading during the Covid-19 pandemic this winter.

Enabled by a £3.5 million award by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), Read, Talk, Share expands The Reading Agency’s already successful Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes, with the charity’s work to tackle loneliness and support mental health and wellbeing playing an important part in the nation’s Covid recovery. The two initiatives demonstrate the power of reading to support and connect isolated individuals, and the benefits of bibliotherapy to mental health. The DCMS funding presents an unprecedented level of investment in library services to tackle loneliness and support mental health, and The Reading Agency aims to work closely with local libraries and organisations to reach communities through reading, talking, and sharing.

The Reading Well programme supports people in their journey towards better mental health by making helpful books recommended by health experts easily accessible to readers of all ages. The charity is working closely with every library service across England to provide unprecedented access to the carefully designed reading lists: Reading Well for mental health; Reading Well for young people; and Reading Well for children. Topics explored include mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy; coping with grief, anxiety, depression, and stress; understanding bullies, body dysmorphia, ADHD, autism, and OCD; and much more. Books from each list will be available for a mixture of both click-and-collect and e-lending at each English library authority later this month.
● 90% of Reading Well users said they found their book helpful for understanding and managing their conditions.
● 89% of responding health practitioners agreed that it helped to support people outside of consultation time.

Meanwhile, the Reading Friends programme brings people together to read, share stories, meet new friends, and have fun, tackling the big life-challenge of social isolation. Through the funding grant from DCMS, The Reading Agency will be able to provide funding, training and resources for 75 library authorities in England to deliver Reading Friends to a broad range of audiences, using socially distanced and telephone/video call befriending models. The programme is delivered by volunteers and co-produced with its participants to ensure it meets each person’s needs and matches their interests, in groups and one-to-one sessions.
● After taking part, 83% of participants and 95% of volunteers reported feeling more connected to other people.
● An evaluation of a pilot telephone reading befriending service run in Staffordshire during the first lockdown generated similar findings; most participant respondents agreed/strongly agreed that the project had helped them to feel more connected to other people.

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency, said: “Tackling loneliness and supporting mental health and wellbeing across the country has always been a priority for The Reading Agency. The ongoing Covid-19 crisis’ impact on the country’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing cannot be underestimated, and our Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes are perfectly placed to assist the nation in recovery. Our mission remains to help people tackle life’s challenges through the proven power of reading, and to bring people together, ease our burdens, and foster wellbeing and understanding. We are immensely grateful to DCMS for their support – this feels like a real vote of continued confidence in the role of public libraries and their important contribution to society.”