Reading Friends shortlisted in Charity Film Awards

Tackling loneliness through reading

Reading Friends connects people by starting conversations through reading. Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, Reading Friends is able to reach those who are vulnerable, isolated and at risk of loneliness. It gives people the opportunity to meet others, share their stories, make new friends and have fun – using reading to spark connections.

Yarn, Natter, Blether

We believe in the power of reading, and the transformative impact that books and storytelling can have. Yarn, Natter, Blether was developed to showcase the amazing stories that every one of us has, and to highlight how Reading Friends can unlock these stories by developing meaningful human connections.

“Life has a way of surprising you. The longer you live the more you discover about yourself. Who would have known that a girl born during the war, in a bombed-out East Anglian town, would become a northern lass, with a love of Scandi crime and a BA in LUST?” Ann’s story as written by Vaseem Khan

Help us win the people’s vote

We’re delighted to have been announced as part of this year’s shortlist for the Charity Film Awards. 400 charities entered the awards, and more than 65,000 members of the public voted. Now we need your votes for the chance to become the people’s champion, and share the impact that the power of reading can have on tackling loneliness.

Reading takes you into another world from Reading Friends on Vimeo.

Vote for us

Head to the Charity Film Awards website and vote for Yarn, Natter, Blether to be your winner.

Help us evaluate the Summer Reading Challenge

The Reading Agency is searching for twenty schools to help evaluate the impact of the Challenge on children’s progress and attitudes towards books and reading.

The Summer Reading Challenge is an annual event aimed at 4-11-year-olds. Children are encouraged to read six books of their choice during the summer holidays with collectable incentives and rewards. The Challenge has been running for twenty years, and in January 2019 we were delighted to announce that we were awarded funding from Arts Council England to evaluate the difference our programme makes with our evaluation partner Renaisi. 

To help us do this, we’re in need of twenty primary schools who can help us understand the impact taking part in the Challenge has on children’s progress and attitudes towards books and reading. The Challenge gets children reading for fun during the summer, and helps tackle the ‘summer slide’, a decline in children’s reading frequency and ability during the long holidays. These schools will be invaluable in helping us develop an evidence base on the impact of this fun, free programme on children’s reading enjoyment, confidence and skills.

We are looking for twenty primary schools that:

  • Are located in disadvantaged areas of England
  • Have a KS2 class/year group where at least 10 students will be participating in the 2020 Challenge
  • Are willing to use a lesson time before and after the summer to administer a specifically designed test with this class/year group

Participating schools will be eligible for a range of rewards and prizes, including book collections, vouchers and author visits (pending availability). They will also receive an analysis of their test data for school use, and compensation for their involvement in the evaluation.

Get involved

Please get in touch with Renaisi’s Project Manager for the evaluation Martha Aitken on [email protected] or 020 7033 2626.

The Reading Agency welcomes two new Heads of Department

The Reading Agency is delighted to announce the appointments of Hayley Butler as Head of Marketing and Communications and Louisa Steel as Head of Engagement (Adults).

Hayley Butler joined the Reading Agency at the start of the year. Hayley has worked in a variety of sectors including recruitment, events, arts and culture. Having spent the last 6 years working as Head of Marcomms for charity and commercial venue, Wac Arts, Hayley is well placed to support The Reading Agency’s vision for the future. As part of her professional experience she has built departments from the ground up, delivered expert digital campaigns and has created innovative programmes of work using storytelling activity to lift brand. Her experience supporting fundraising and income generation through stakeholder engagement, events and exciting creative will add value to the work of the Reading Agency.

Hayley says, “I believe that reading is fundamental, transformational and that everyone deserves the opportunity to be empowered and inspired by reading. I am going to work with the team to take The Reading Agency’s brand to the next level, amplifying the great work that is happening and creating opportunities for The Reading Agency to impact even more people across the UK.

Miki Lentin, Trustee of The Reading Agency says, “The Reading Agency plays a critical role in inspiring people to read to a better life. As the charity broadens its programmes to encourage more people to engage with its offer, I am delighted that it has appointed Hayley Butler as the new Head of Marketing and Communications. Hayley comes with a wealth of experience, but more importantly brings an eagerness and enthusiasm to the task of ensuring that The Reading Agency’s communications and marketing creates greater impact.”


Louisa Steel joins The Reading Agency in February from Essex Libraries, and brings with her a wealth of experience of the library sector and reader development. As a Chartered Librarian for nearly 30 years, Louisa has strong skills and a breadth and depth of direct experience of the impact of The Reading Agency’s work. Her most recent role has been as Customer Partner, Outreach and Engagement Lead with responsibility for library services to adults. Prior to that she spent three years as Reader Development and Access Manager, ensuring library services reach underrepresented groups and managed the library provision at HMP/YOI Chelmsford. She has also spent five years as an Advisor to the Essex Book Festival Board.

Subnum Hariff, Trustee of the Reading Agency commented on Louisa’s appointment says, “We’re delighted with the appointment of Louisa Steel. As a passionate and experienced librarian delivering innovative services to the vulnerable and hard-to-reach, I believe Louisa will bring a wealth of insight and new approaches to The Reading Agency’s work.”

Get involved

Find out more about Reading Ahead and Quick Reads, our programmes for emergent adult readers

Read all about our latest Reading Well booklist, created to support children’s mental health and wellbeing

The Reading Agency launches Reading Well for children booklist to support children’s mental health and wellbeing

• The Reading Well for children booklist has been created in response to concerning data about children’s mental health in the UK. In 2018, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reported that schools were on average making 183 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) referrals every school day, with 56% of those referrals coming from primary schools.

• Launched on the first day of Children’s Mental Health Week 2020, Reading Well has been recognised by the Royal Society for Public Health and developed in partnership with Libraries Connected

• The list covers areas such as anxiety, bereavement and bullying with books by Michael Rosen, Tom Percival, Zanib Mian and Joseph Coelho selected by leading mental health experts to support the mental health and wellbeing of children

To coincide with Children’s Mental Health Week, UK charity The Reading Agency and Libraries Connected are launching a new children’s mental health scheme as part of their Reading Well programme. This new Reading Well for children booklist responds to concerning data about children’s mental health in the UK. One in eight (12.8%) 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental health condition when assessed in 2017. In 2018, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reported that schools were on average making 183 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) referrals every school day, with 56% of those referrals coming from primary schools. In 2019, BookTrust reported that over a third of parents of children aged 4 to 11 worried about their child’s mental health at least once a week.

The Reading Well for children booklist contains 33 books covering topics relevant to the children of today, including grief, anxiety, bullying and staying safe online. In recognition of the potential impact of living with diagnosed conditions and physical disabilities, the booklist explores living well with conditions including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), dyslexia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and physical disabilities. The booklist is targeted at children in Key Stage 2 and includes titles suitable for a wide range of reading levels to support less confident readers, and to encourage children to read together with their siblings and carers.

Recognised by leading health bodies including the Royal Society for Public Health, the new Reading Well for children booklist has been developed by The Reading Agency, health professionals, and children with experience of the topics covered and their families and carers. The book selection panel included experts from public libraries, NHS England, Mind, the Royal College of GPs and the School Library Association. Created in partnership with Libraries Connected, the quality-assured booklist is completely free to access from public libraries.

The 33 books on the list, by authors including Michael Rosen, Tom Percival, Zanib Mian and Joseph Coelho, have been selected to help Key Stage 2 children (aged 7-11) understand and talk about their mental health and wellbeing. The books have been selected to encourage conversation about feelings between children and their parents or carers and to offer support outside of a clinical setting or whilst waiting for treatment.

Reading Well booklists have been created to add value to health services, and to support early intervention and prevention. The Reading Well for children booklist follows the success of the programme’s existing booklists: Reading Well for mental health, Reading Well for young people’s mental health, Reading Well for long term conditions and Reading Well for dementia. Since the launch of Reading Well in 2013, 1.2 million readers have borrowed over 2.3 million of the scheme’s quality-assured books from libraries.

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Author Michael Rosen says: “The Reading Agency and public libraries across the country are harnessing the power of reading to help tackle the crisis facing children’s mental health. These books will start conversations with children about how they’re feeling and show them that others have felt the same way. Public libraries have long been places where people have sought answers and comfort; this scheme combines the safe space of the library with inspiring children and families to read for pleasure and wellbeing”

Dr Barbie Clarke, child psychotherapist and member of the Reading Well booklist for children book selection panel, says: “Anxiety can cause children to feel isolated. Providing books which raise issues that concern them can encourage dialogue between children and their parents and carers. These books have been carefully chosen by children and parents in a series of workshops we ran with the Reading Agency that identified common causes of anxiety in children and how to provide appropriate support for them.”

Cressida Cowell, Waterstones Children’s Laureate says: “I’m delighted that The Reading Agency have put together their Reading Well list. The mental health of our children is vitally important, and books are a way into discussing lots of different issues kids and parents face every day. More widely, we know that reading anything for the joy of it gives huge mental health benefits: that’s why it’s so crucial children have access to new books in public and school libraries.”

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency says: “At The Reading Agency, we believe in the proven power of reading to tackle life’s big challenges, including the challenge we all face of managing our mental health and wellbeing. This new and important area of our work will support all children, including the 1 in 8 who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, with using quality-assured information, advice and stories all approved by experts.”

Mark Freeman, President of Libraries Connected says: “Children today face multiple challenges to their mental health and wellbeing. This new Reading Well list has a vital role to play in helping them to consider and improve their own wellbeing. Libraries Connected are proud to work with The Reading Agency to develop and share this list with libraries across the country as part of our Universal Health Offer.”

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Broken down thematically, the full Reading Well for children booklist includes:

Healthy minds

What’s Going on Inside my Head? by Molly Potter, illustrated by Sarah Jennings – through talking about positive self-image, emotional intelligence, relationships and mindfulness, this book develops healthy habits and good coping strategies

Healthy for Life: Self-esteem and Mental Health by Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Dan Bramall – stress reduction and mindful techniques to deal with topics such as mental illness, phobias, and eating disorders • How Not to Lose It: Mental Health Sorted by Anna Williamson, illustrated by Sophie Beer – healthy habits for staying in control of stress levels


How Are You Feeling Today? by Molly Potter, illustrated by Sarah Jennings – a dip-in book which allows children to explore and deal with particular feelings, including notes and strategies for parents and carers

Mindful Me: Exploring Emotions by Paul Christelis, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli – mindful exercises to encourage exploring a range of emotions and relieve stress

Feeling Angry! by Katie Douglass, illustrated by Mike Gordon – using everyday situations, this book explores different reasons why children might become angry and offers advice for remaining calm, including notes for parents and teachers

Sometimes I Feel Sad by Tom Alexander – this book helps to show children that feeling sad is part of everyone’s life, and they are not alone in feeling this way


Ruby’s Worry written and illustrated by Tom Percival – an exploration of anxiety which aims to open up discussions about feelings and show that a problem shared is a problem halved

Questions and Feelings About: Worries by Paul Christelis, illustrated by Ximena Jeria – a book to help children to recognise signs of worry, featuring mindful coping tips

Grobblechops by Elizabeth Laird, illustrated by Jenny Lucander – embodying fears to help turn them from frightening to friendly

Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna – using the examples of moving to a new country and school, this picture book shows the importance of talking about feelings of fear and worry

All Birds Have Anxiety by Kathy Hoopmann – using colourful images, explanations and gentle humour to explore living with anxiety day-to-day and how to deal with it

Worry Angels by Sita Brahmachari, illustrated by Jane Ray – this fiction book looks at dealing with your own and other people’s worries, and is particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers

Outsmarting Worry by Dawn Huebner, illustrated by Kara McHale – practical advice to help shift from thinking about worries and fears to dealing with them

The world around you

At school

Dealing With Bullying by Jane Lacey, illustrated by Venitia Dean – an interactive book offering examples of verbal and physical bullying and methods to deal with bullies and peer pressure to bully others

Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik – a fiction book about being different, growing friendships and dealing with bullying behaviour

Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe – in addition to dealing with change (new school, physical changes) this book explores the pressures of trying to please people and struggling to fit in


#Goldilocks by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross – a humorous cautionary tale for a new generation of internet users

In the news

Something Bad Happened: A Kid’s Guide to Coping with Events in the News by Dawn Huebner, illustrated by Kara McHale – offers advice for having tough conversations with children about world events such as natural disasters, terrorism and war. It addresses common questions and provides tools to calm fears

Dealing with tough times

When someone dies

Mum’s Jumper by Jayde Perkin – this picture book tackles coping with the loss of a parent. Developed in collaboration with Cruse Bereavement Care

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake – acknowledging that sadness is not always avoidable, this book deals with death and loss

If All the World Were by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Allison Colpoys – a poetic picture book about coping with the death of a loved one, specifically a grandparent

Clownfish by Alan Durant – this book follows a boy who believes that his father has been reincarnated seven years after his death as a fish and is now in his local, soon to be shut down, aquarium

Tough times at home

The Boy Who Built a Wall Around Himself by Ali Redford, illustrated by Kara Simpson – using a simple metaphor to explain how some children cope with painful and traumatic experiences, this book encourages exploration and communication around feelings

Up and Down Mum by Child’s Play, illustrated by Summer Macon – this book helps to understand the causes of mental illness and how to live with someone experiencing it. Developed in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust

The Colour Thief: A Family’s Story of Depression by Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters, illustrated by Karin Littlewood – for children living with parents with depression, this book helps them to understand the causes and effects of depression, and offers reassurance that it can pass and that their parents are not lost to them

When you have a condition

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Can I Tell You About ADHD? by Susan Yarney, illustrated by Chris Martin – written from the perspective of someone with ADHD, this book encourages readers to learn about ADHD, how it feels and how others can help someone experiencing it

Check Mates by Stewart Foster – this fiction book explores dealing with ADHD and concentrating in school

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Questions and Feelings About: Autism by Louise Spilsbury, illustrated by Ximena Jeria – practical help, tips and advice as well as exploring everyday situations living with autism

M is for Autism by The Students of Limpsfield Grange School and Vicky Martin – drawing on real life experiences, this book explores the highs and lows of being different in a world of ‘normal’


The Illustrated Guide to Dyslexia and Its Amazing People by Kate Power and Kathy Iwanczak Forsyth – by showing what dyslexia is and asking the reader how it applies to them, this book offers an engaging means of working out how dyslexia affects the individual specifically, and includes tools and tips to deal with it

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

• Double Felix by Sally Harris, illustrated by Maria Serrano – this fiction book explores what it is like living with OCD through the eyes of young protagonist Felix

Having a disability

Questions and Feelings About: Having a Disability by Louise Spilsbury, illustrated by Ximena Jeria – this hands-on picture book is designed to help children with their questions and feelings about having a disability

A full overview of all of the titles on the list can be found on the Reading Well website.

Get involved

Find out about the Reading Well titles including Mood-boosting Books

The Reading Agency

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