Girls Aloud singer, The Masked Singer star and mental health campaigner Nicola Roberts is championing The Reading Agency’s new Read, Talk, Share initiative that combats loneliness and promotes wellbeing through the proven power of reading.
She is joined by author ambassadors Amanda Prowse, who co-wrote The Boy Between: A Mother and Son’s Journey From a World Gone Grey with her son Josiah who has suffered from crippling depression and suicidal thoughts; and mental health campaigner and author Natasha Devon MBE, who has a weekly radio show on LBC and writes regularly for a number of publications, including the Guardian and Grazia. Her ‘mind manual’, A Beginner’s Guide to Being Mental: An A-Z, was published in 2018 by Pan Macmillan.
Nicola Roberts said: “Wherever you are or whatever your circumstances, a good book enables you to leave your reality and get lost in the story you can’t put down. There’s a comfort in the occupancy you can’t quite explain. During lockdown, especially for those living alone, while there is nothing to busy your mind but tv and your own thoughts, reading can be a therapeutic escape.
“I often feel like I’m not being productive enough and with so many of us especially those in the arts not being able to do what we love, it’s sounds small but the tiniest achievement of finishing a book really does give some self-satisfaction. I haven’t been an avid reader all my life and it’s only been since the world slowed due to the pandemic that I have grown to love reading as much as I do now. I wish I had made more time for reading as a girl while growing into a woman. That’s why I’m proud to champion Read, Talk, Share which ultimately is about the power of books to bring us together, uplift us and help us through life’s challenges.”
Amanda Prowse said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be an author ambassador for The Reading Agency’s Read, Talk, Share campaign. Their Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes do absolutely vital work to support mental health and tackle loneliness – work which is needed now more than ever. I’m looking forward to working with them over the coming weeks to help further their mission and share the proven power of reading across the country!”
Natasha Devon said: “‘Stories are really important to human development and psychology: They help us to feel connected to the human experience and explore places and possibilities. The imagination can also be a sanctuary from difficult thoughts and emotions, whilst discussing literature can be a way to genuinely connect without having to constantly focus on realities which may be stressful. For all these reasons, access to books and people to discuss them with has never been more needed than during the pandemic, when so many of us are struggling with isolation and anxiety. The Reading Agency’s Read, Talk, Share campaign will have a tangible positive impact on the mental health of the people it reaches.”
Enabled by a £3.5 million award by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), Read, Talk, Share will expand 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 will work closely with local libraries and organisations to reach communities through reading, talking, and sharing.
Reading Well 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 Reading Agency 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 borrowing and e-lending from library authorities across England – check with your local library authority for more information.
Reading Friends 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 over 100 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.
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.”
Follow the latest developments on social media: @ReadingAgency #ReadTalkShare #LetsTalkLoneliness