Books can be the best medicine: A new chapter for mental health prescriptions in Wales

From today (26 June), health professionals in Wales will be able to prescribe free library books to assist people in managing their mental health or dealing with difficult feelings and experiences in what experts behind the scheme are calling ‘bibliotherapy’.

The Reading Well Books on Prescription for mental health scheme has been developed by The Reading Agency and public libraries, leading health organisations including the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mind, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Psychological Society and the Royal College of Nursing, as well as individuals who have personal experience of mental health needs and their relatives and carers.

The scheme is being launched in Wales following its success in England which has seen 931,000 people borrow over 2 million Reading Well books from public libraries.

Debbie Hicks, The Reading Agency’s Creative Director, said: “One in four of us will face a mental health issue at some point in our lives. Reading has proven power to help people manage their own mental health and wellbeing. We are delighted to be launching this life-changing programme in Wales, with many of the books available in Welsh for the first time, enabling the scheme to reach even more people.”

Free copies of the books will be available to members of the public to borrow from all 22 public library authorities in Wales from 26 June, as well as supporting promotional material including leaflets containing the booklist. The Reading Agency is working with Welsh Books Council to translate some of the books into Welsh and all programme materials are bilingual. The books can be recommended by a health professional and borrowed free of charge from a local library, or users can self-refer and borrow the titles as they would any other library book.

Professor Neil Frude, a consultant clinical psychologist and founder of the original Book Prescription Wales initiative, said: “Reading Well Books on Prescription for mental health in Wales is a useful and highly cost-effective additional resource for providing psychological help for many people across the principality. It is estimated that there are currently over 400,000 adults in Wales with a diagnosable mental condition. Thankfully there are several highly effective ways of delivering psychological help, including the use of self-help books written by expert clinicians, otherwise known as ‘bibliotherapy’.

The beauty of this scheme is that it recommends the very best books and delivers them freely through the public library service. In this way the scheme has the added benefit of bringing more people into the library, that precious community asset, where they will find many other resources that can help to boost their wellbeing, to build resilience and to thrive.”

The collection of 37 books includes health information, self-help and inspirational personal stories such as Reasons to Stay Alive by award-winning author Matt Haig, which explores his personal experience of coming close to committing suicide at the age of 24, and The Recovery Letters, an anthology of heartfelt letters written by people who have recovered or are recovering from depression.

Author Malan Wilkinson from Criccieth, North Wales, and ambassador for Reading Well Books on Prescription for mental health said: “It’s been a year since I wrote my book about living with a mental health condition and it is true to say that reading and writing about my experiences has been invaluable for my own health. After six years of living with mental health problems, it’s wonderful to see this scheme being launched in Wales. Having this collection of 37 self-help books will be of great assistance to people across the country.”

Ainsley Bladon, Mental Health Strategy Lead at Welsh Government, said: “The Reading Well scheme, funded by Welsh Government, presents a wonderful opportunity in Wales – to continue the legacy of our Book Prescription Wales scheme, to empower individuals to manage their own wellbeing using public health approaches, and, uniquely, to offer a full range of Welsh language titles in our libraries, representing the biggest ever translation project undertaken in Wales.”

Nic Pitman at SCL Cymru said: “Public Libraries are vital community hubs for health and wellbeing support, and this list of expert-endorsed titles is another way we can support public health in Wales. SCL Cymru is enormously excited to work with The Reading Agency to deliver this programme that has been widely endorsed by health professionals as part of our drive to promote good mental health.”

The scheme aims to make health information publications more readily available to members of the public. Reading Well Books on Prescription in Wales has been launched by The Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarians Cymru and is funded by the Welsh Government.

Get involved

For more information about the Reading Well Books on Prescription for mental health visit: https://reading-well.org.uk/wales

Gall llyfrau fod y feddyginiaeth orau: Pennod newydd ar gyfer presgripsiynau iechyd meddwl yng Nghymru

O heddiw (26 Mehefin), bydd gweithwyr iechyd proffesiynol yn gallu rhoi llyfrau am ddim ar bresgripsiwn i gynorthwyo pobl i reoli eu hiechyd meddwl neu ddelio â theimladau a phrofiadau anodd yn yr hyn a elwir yn ‘bibliotherapi’ gan arbenigwyr sydd y tu cefn i’r cynllun.

Mae’r cynllun Llyfrau Darllen yn Well ar Bresgripsiwn ar gyfer iechyd meddwl wedi cael ei ddatblygu gan y Reading Agency a llyfrgelloedd cyhoeddus, sefydliadau iechyd blaenllaw gan gynnwys Coleg Brenhinol y Seicatryddion, Mind, Coleg Brenhinol y Meddygon Teulu, Cymdeithas Seicoleg Prydain a’r Coleg Nyrsio Brenhinol, ynghyd ag unigolion sydd â phrofiad personol o anghenion iechyd meddwl a’u perthnasau a’u gofalwyr.

Mae’r cynllun yn cael ei lansio heddiw yng Nghymru yn dilyn ei lwyddiant yn Lloegr sydd wedi gweld 931,000 o bobl yn benthyca dros 2 filiwn o lyfrau Darllen yn Well o lyfrgelloedd cyhoeddus.

Dywedodd Debbie Hicks, Cyfarwyddwr Creadigol y Reading Agency: “Bydd un mewn pedwar ohonom yn wynebu anhawster iechyd meddwl ar ryw adeg yn ystod ein bywydau. Mae gallu wedi’i brofi gan ddarllen i helpu pobl i reoli eu hiechyd meddwl a’u lles eu hunain. Mae’n rhoi pleser mawr i ni lansio’r rhaglen hon sy’n newid bywydau yng Nghymru, gyda nifer o’r llyfrau ar gael yn y Gymraeg am y tro cyntaf, gan alluogi’r cynllun i gyrraedd hyd yn oed mwy o bobl.”

Bydd copïau am ddim o’r llyfrau ar gael i aelodau’r cyhoedd eu benthyca o lyfrgelloedd cyhoeddus y 22 awdurdod i gyd yng Nghymru o’r 26 Mehefin, ynghyd â deunyddiau hyrwyddo ategol gan gynnwys taflenni sy’n cynnwys y rhestr lyfrau. Mae’r Reading Agency yn gweithio gyda Chyngor Llyfrau Cymru i gyfieithu rhai o’r llyfrau i’r Gymraeg ac mae holl ddeunyddiau’r rhaglen yn ddwyieithog. Gall gweithiwr iechyd proffesiynol argymell y llyfrau ac y gellir eu benthyca yn rhad ac am ddim o lyfrgell leol, neu gall defnyddwyr atgyfeirio eu hunain a benthyca’r teitlau fel y byddent gydag unrhyw lyfr llyfrgell arall.

Dywedodd yr Athro Neil Frude, seicolegydd clinigol ymgynghorol a sylfaenydd menter Llyfrau ar Bresgripsiwn gwreiddiol Cymru: “Mae Llyfrau Darllen yn Well ar Bresgripsiwn ar gyfer iechyd meddwl yng Nghymru yn adnodd ychwanegol defnyddiol a hynod o gost effeithiol i gynnig help seicolegol i nifer o bobl ar draws y wlad. Amcangyfrifir fod dros 40,000 o oedolion yng Nghymru ar hyn o bryd gyda diagnosis o gyflwr meddyliol. Mae yna nifer o ffyrdd arbennig o effeithiol, diolch am hynny, o gyflwyno help seicolegol, gan gynnwys y defnydd o lyfrau hunangymorth a ysgrifennir gan glinigwyr arbenigol, a adwaenir fel ‘bibliotherapi’ fel arall.’

Mantais y cynllun hwn yw ei fod yn argymell y llyfrau gorau oll ac yn eu cyflwyno am ddim trwy’r gwasanaeth llyfrgelloedd cyhoeddus. Yn y ffordd hon, mae budd ychwanegol i’r cynllun gan ei fod yn denu mwy o bobl i’r llyfrgell, yr ased cymunedol amhrisiadwy hwnnw, lle y byddant yn dod o hyd i adnoddau eraill a all helpu i roi hwb i’w lles, meithrin cydnerthedd a helpu rhywun i ffynnu.”

Mae’r casgliad o 37 llyfr yn cynnwys gwybodaeth ar iechyd, hunangymorth a storïau personol ysbrydoledig, megis Reasons to Stay Alive, gan Matt Haig, yr awdur sydd wedi ennill gwobrau, sy’n archwilio ei brofiadau personol megis dod yn agos at gyflawni hunanladdiad yn 24 mlwydd oed, a’r Recovery Letters, sef detholiad o lythyrau teimladwy o’r galon a ysgrifennwyd gan bobl sydd wedi cael adferiad neu’n gwella o iselder.

Dywedodd yr awdures, Malan Wilkinson o Griceth, Gogledd Cymru, a llysgennad dros Lyfrau Darllen yn Well ar Bresgripsiwn ar gyfer iechyd meddwl: “Mae wedi bod yn flwyddyn ers i mi ysgrifennu fy llyfr am fyw gyda chyflwr iechyd meddwl ac mae’n wir dweud fod darllen ac ysgrifennu am fy mhrofiadau wedi bod yn amhrisiadwy i’m hiechyd fy hunan. Wedi chwe blynedd o fyw ag anawsterau iechyd meddwl, mae’n wych gweld y cynllun hwn yn cael ei lansio yng Nghymru. Bydd cael y casgliad hwn o 37 o lyfrau hunangymorth o help mawr i bobl ar draws y wlad.”

Dywedodd Ainsley Bladon, Arweinydd Strategaeth Iechyd Meddwl o fewn Llywodraeth Cymru: “Mae’r cynllun Darllen yn Well, a ariennir gan Lywodraeth Cymru, yn cyflwyno cyfle gwych yng Nghymru – i barhau ag etifeddiaeth ein Cynllun Llyfrau ar Bresgripsiwn yng Nghymru, i rymuso unigolion i reoli lles eu hunain gan ddefnyddio dulliau iechyd cyhoeddus, ac i gynnig ystod lawn o deitlau iaith Gymraeg, yn unigryw, o fewn llyfrgelloedd, gan gynrychioli’r prosiect cyfieithu mwyaf erioed a gyflawnwyd yng Nghymru.”

Dywedodd Nic Pitman o fewn Cymdeithas Prif Lyfrgellwyr Cymru (SCL Cymru): “Mae Llyfrgelloedd Cyhoeddus yn ganolfannau cymunedol hanfodol i gefnogi iechyd a lles, ac mae’r rhestr hon o deitlau a gefnogwyd gan arbenigwyr yn ffordd arall y gallwn gefnogi iechyd cyhoeddus yng Nghymru. Mae SCL Cymru yn hynod o gyffrous o weithio gyda’r Asiantaeth Ddarllen i gyflwyno’r rhaglen hon sydd wedi’i chefnogi’n eang gan weithwyr iechyd proffesiynol fel rhan o’n hymgyrch i hyrwyddo iechyd meddwl da.”

Nod y cynllun yw gwneud cyhoeddiadau gwybodaeth am iechyd ar gael yn haws i aelodau’r cyhoedd. Mae’r cynllun Llyfrau Darllen yn Well ar Bresgripsiwn yng Nghymru wedi’i lansio gan y Reading Agency a Chymdeithas Prif Lyfrgellwyr Cymru, ac mae’n cael ei ariannu gan Lywodraeth Cymru.

Am ragor o wybodaeth ar Lyfrau Darllen yn Well ar Bresgripsiwn ar gyfer iechyd meddwl, edrychwch ar: https://reading-well.org.uk/wales

Why librarians love Radio 2 Book Club

Since 2013, The Reading Agency has worked with BBC Radio 2 to select books for their Book Club.

Each season, publishers submit their best forthcoming titles. The books are then read by a panel of librarians from all over the UK. The library panel meet to discuss their favourites, and a shortlist is chosen for the BBC.

In February 2021, the BBC Radio 2 Book Club moved to Steve Wright in the afternoon. Every month Steve discusses a different book with both the author and with celebrity guests.

Steve has said about the Book Club: “Books have boomed in lockdown, with thousands of people rediscovering the joy of reading, so it’s great news that the Radio 2 Book Club will move to afternoons where it will get the full bells and whistles Big Show treatment!”

Here some of our brilliant panellists tell you in their own words why they take part.

Emma Scott

Head of Literature and Audio Book Production, Calibre Audio Library

“As a librarian I am passionate about promoting reading and recommending books and being on the panel gives me a platform to do just that. There is a time commitment involved as each panel member can be sent up to eight titles to read and review within a six week period and then asked to attend a meeting at the end of the process to discuss the books that make the longlist. The hardest part of the panel is remembering to keep everything secret until the final books are chosen to be aired on Radio 2!

For me it is a real treat to get a preview of what the next big thing in publishing could be and potentially discover something new. It also feeds into my current job working for national charity Calibre Audio Library, as I can see what books are coming and obtain them for the library so that our members can enjoy them too.

I still view being on the panel as a privilege and can thoroughly recommend the experience. The fact that someone may be inspired to pick up a book that I endorsed as a book group contender is ultimately one of the main reasons that I became a librarian.”

Sorrelle Clements

Service Development Manager, Coventry Libraries

“Being part of the Radio 2 panel is a brilliant experience. It challenges me to read all sorts of books, many of which I would never have considered or chosen to read. It’s not always an easy or pleasant experience to be taken out of your comfort zone but has proved to be such a valuable experience for me.

It’s also a really good exercise to write the reviews thinking about the wider audience. We all have our own individual responses to books but on the panel the aim is to think of that wider audience, to put the story into the context of life today and how the story will be received by the general public.”

Sarah Salmon

Norfolk Community Directory Coordinator

“I greatly enjoy being a member of the Radio 2 panel. As an avid reader it is great to know that other people are reading the same books as me (at the same time) and that then there will be a chance to discuss them while they are recent in my mind.

The importance of reading on a person’s health (mental and physical) was brought home to me recently when a sudden and serious illness robbed me of all confidence (and the ability to read for a while). The support of the Radio 2 group helped me regain both my reading stamina and overall confidence and I really don’t know what I’d do without it.”

Sarah Davis

Greenwich Libraries

“I have been part of the Radio 2 Book Club selection panel for a number of years and have really found the experience beneficial in my workplace role as the reader development coordinator for Greenwich Libraries. My favourite part of being involved is having the opportunity to spread my love of reading and books to a radio audience. It is always exciting when my parcel of books arrives as I never know what to expect and it is so rewarding to have access to books by debut authors that will eventually become bestsellers.”

Peter Hughes

Stock Team Libraries NI

“I feel incredibly privileged and honoured to be a part of the judging process. I’ve been a librarian for almost 30 years now and read thousands of books and still, the thrill of opening page one of a new, unread novel is as great as ever.

Not only do I get to read novels that are as yet unpublished, but also get the chance to mix with a group of similarly minded people from all over the UK. It almost feels like being a part of a top secret group or panel.

Very often I end up reading and falling in love with novels that I wouldn’t normally touch with a barge pole or get to read titles by brand new authors or authors I’ve never heard of before…and like any worthwhile secret club or society, what happens in Book Club selection stays in Book Club selection!”

Get involved

Head to Reading Groups for Everyone for more information on this season’s books.

Boots UK to support Books on Prescription for dementia initiative in Wales

Boots UK will support the Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia initiative in Wales with a special event in Cardiff’s Grangetown Hub Library.

Recent studies estimate there are between 38,444 and 55,829 people living with dementia in Wales and by 2021, the number of people with dementia across Wales is projected to increase by 31% and by as much as 44% in some rural areas.

The scheme has been developed to support people with dementia and their carers by providing an expertly curated booklist, which includes information and advice for people living with the condition, as well as fiction, memoir and photographic books used in reminiscence therapy.

During the event, which was attended by Sue Phelps, Director of Alzheimer’s Society Wales, themed activities were held, including a reminiscence group session where participants were encouraged to use some of the books recommended as part of the campaign.

In a specially recorded video message played at the event, Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, said: “It’s great to see how this scheme is developing and expanding so that more people can be helped through the power of books. The scheme will help people living with dementia, and their carers, to get information and advice about dementia and find out more about living well with dementia. I welcome the fact that more people will now be able to access these books, whether through libraries, GP surgeries or through Boots stores in Wales, and I’m looking forward to seeing the positive impact this scheme will make for people living with dementia and those who care for them.”

As part of Boots’ involvement in the initiative, posters and leaflets with information on how the Reading Well programme works, where to get help, and the list of recommended books, will be available in 103 Boots stores and pharmacies.

Nicola Bennett, Head of Customer Experience, Boots UK, said: “Over the past few years we’ve continuously demonstrated our commitment to making our stores in Wales more Dementia Friendly through our partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society. We are pleased to be embarking on the fantastic Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia initiative by The Reading Agency and helping our customers and colleagues increase their awareness of the condition through information available in stores.”

Debbie Hicks, Creative Director at The Reading Agency, added: “A dementia diagnosis can be a difficult and lonely experience for all concerned. Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia provides helpful reading material available in the safe and trusted space of the local library, supporting people to live well, manage caring responsibilities and connect with the experiences of others. We are delighted that Boots is supporting the scheme by stocking leaflets and posters in every store in Wales, enabling these brilliant books to reach more people and build dementia friendly communities.”

Get involved

For more information, please contact Boryana Kermenova at the Boots UK Press Office on 07887 056201 or email [email protected]

Ben O’Donnell appointed Head of Children and Young People’s Reading

14 June 2019: The Reading Agency has appointed Ben O’Donnell as Head of Children and Young People’s Reading.

O’Donnell joins The Reading Agency from Discover Children’s Story Centre where he is Head of Learning. This involves directing the Newham Word Festival and managing a portfolio of creative literacy projects for children, young people and families in and beyond East London.

He was previously Programme Manager for primary schools at BookTrust, where he ran Booktime (now called Time to Read), the Read for My School competition and the Welsh-language Pori Drwy Stori programme. Before working at BookTrust he delivered short-term courses towards training and employment for 16 to 25-year-olds through The Prince’s Trust.

O’Donnell says: “I’m thrilled to join The Reading Agency at a time when reading and all its benefits are increasingly needed. I am looking forward to the challenge of helping navigate the children’s programmes through times ahead, supporting libraries, children, young people and communities to discover the joy of reading. My ambition is to build on the phenomenal success of the Summer Reading Challenge and catalyse its good will and reputation to create more generations of lifelong readers.”

Sue Wilkinson MBE, CEO of The Reading Agency, says: “We are very excited about Ben starting in his role as Head of Children and Young People’s Reading, to continue and build upon the remarkable work done by his predecessor Anne Sarrag MBE. The 2018 review of the Challenge demonstrated both its reach and impact and the huge appetite to involve ever more children in the future. Ben’s great experience in the field of children’s literacy means he is perfectly equipped to fulfil our hopes for the Challenge in the years ahead.”

The Summer Reading Challenge will launch this year in England and Wales on Saturday 13 July and in Scotland on 22 June. The theme for 2019 is ‘Space Chase’, inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

Get involved

Apply to become our new Head of Fundraising

Find out more about how the Summer Reading Challenge could benefit your child

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