Nicola Roberts joins Amanda Prowse and Natasha Devon to champion Read, Talk, Share campaign

Girls Aloud singer, 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.”

Get Involved

To find out more about Read, Talk, Share and how to access Reading Well and Reading Friends click here.

Follow the latest developments on social media @readingagency. #ReadTalkShare #LetsTalkLoneliness

For media information please contact Francesca Whitting on 07799 094 184 / [email protected]

What is Read, Talk, Share?

Read, Talk, Share is an initiative to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through the proven power of reading during the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery.

Read, Talk, Share will expand The Reading Agency’s already successful Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes. The two initiatives demonstrate the power of reading to support and connect isolated individuals, and the benefits of bibliotherapy to mental health. The Reading Well book collections will be in every library across the country and are available as eBooks and Reading Friends activity is popping up all over England. Supporting you and your loved ones at this challenging time.

Find your local library here and ask them about accessing Reading Friends and Reading Well in your local area or check out the Reading Well and Reading Friends websites.

Reading Well – social prescribing for better mental health

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.

About Reading Well:
Each year Reading Well books are borrowed 350,000 times (almost 2.5m book loans since in 2013 and 1.25 million individual users). The aim is to support people to manage their health and wellbeing through the proven power of reading. 89% of borrowers report that the book helped them understand more about their health needs.

How does the programme work?
Health professionals refer patients to their library to discover the booklists – so-called ‘social prescribing’. We work with the national public library network, NHS England and the National Academy of Social Prescribing to ensure clinicians are aware about the scheme. Many people also discover these books for themselves, often signposted by our marketing efforts. 

Running successfully for eight years, we operate five schemes: Reading Well for mental health, for dementia, for young people, for children and for long term conditions. In Wales the scheme is bilingual. 

Reading Well and Read, Talk, Share:
During March and April 2021 Reading Well is dramatically expanding: more than 375,000 books have been distributed to 3,600 locations including 3,000 libraries. Every Library in England will be sent 82 books (as well as accompanying digital collections) covering each of the three Reading Well mental health schemes, Reading Well for Children, Young People and Adults. 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.

With libraries closed, publishers have agreed to make titles available for e-lending, ensuring the availability of the most comprehensive range of e-book titles we have ever been able to offer. There will also be a physical book collection for each scheme for every library in an authority for use when libraries re-open.

Find your local library and ask them about Reading Well and how you can get involved or check out the Reading Well website.

Reading Friends – reading as a way to connect people and combat loneliness

Reading Friends is a nationwide programme which uses reading as a way to connect people by starting conversations, targeting the most vulnerable, isolated and those at risk of loneliness. 

About Reading Friends:
Reading Friends brings people together to read, share stories, meet new friends, and have fun, tackling the big life challenge of social isolation. 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. Have a look at some of the case studies from Reading Friends participants.

How does the programme work?
The programme has a flexible format – it’s not a structured book group or literary model. Material includes books, newspapers, poems, e-books or audio books, quotes and short stories. Reading and sharing stories is ‘in the moment’ – participants don’t have to read something before a session. Typically, before Covid-19, sessions ran in small groups (3-10 people) in libraries and community venues.

Reading Friends, Covid-19 and Read, Talk, Share:
In March 2020 Reading Friends faced the challenge of continuing to deliver support when social isolation and loneliness were pressing issues but with existing ways of working became unavailable. We adapted, starting 1-to-1 calls over the phone, posting reading materials, letter writing, and group Zoom sessions. Now, following the award of DCMS grant funding Reading Friends is dramatically scaling up between February to April 2021, making at least 16,000 connections for some of the UK’s most isolated people.

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. There’s real flexibility how sessions are run but typically they last 1 hour and are held weekly. 

Find your local library and ask them about Reading Friends and how you can get involved or check out the Reading Friends website.

The Reading Agency are asking the nation to read, talk and share this Winter.

We know that not everyone can access the digital services whilst they are at home. The physical book collections and in person activity will be available as soon as it is safe to do so. Libraries are planning for the relaxing of restrictions and looking forward to being able to resume click and collect and loan services as soon as possible.

Keep up to date with the Read, Talk, Share campaign by following @ReadingAgency on social media and checking in on our hashtag #ReadTalkShare.

Let’s tackle loneliness and support mental health, together, through the proven power of reading.  

Read, Talk, Share ambassadors announced | Government announces funding to tackle loneliness

Read, Talk, Share

We are delighted to announce our 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 borrowing and e-lending from library authorities across England – check with your local library authority for more information.

  • 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.

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 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.”

Get Involved

Follow the latest developments on social media: @ReadingAgency

#ReadTalkShare #LetsTalkLoneliness

If you’d like to get involved please contact [email protected]

For media information please contact Francesca Whitting on 07799 094 184 / [email protected]

The Reading Agency

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