Leading national charity The Reading Agency is proud to announce their new campaign Read, Talk, Share, an initiative to combat loneliness and 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 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 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.
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 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.
Follow the latest developments on social media: @ReadingAgency / #ReadTalkShare / #LetsTalkLoneliness
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.”
Baroness Barran, Minister for Loneliness said: “The start of this year continues to be as difficult as the last for the whole nation, with many people not being able to see the people who mean the most to them. Tackling loneliness remains a priority for the government and I’m thrilled to see how organisations, like The Reading Agency, have adapted to this new world we’re living in, doing incredible work in their local communities to ensure no one feels isolated.”
Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Libraries said: “Libraries are often the heart and soul of local communities and a real lifeline to so many people who may feel lonely or isolated. With another tough few months ahead of us, I am thrilled that the funding we have allocated will help The Reading Agency continue to deliver its invaluable work – with a particular focus on ensuring that people of all ages are prioritising their mental health.”