Read, Talk, Share Evaluation: Reach and Impact

In December 2020, the U.K. government announced a £7.5 million funding package to help tackle loneliness over the winter period. The funding package was designed to help provide immediate relief to those most at risk, targeted at sectors known for their power and ability to bring people and communities together. Of the £5 million awarded to Arts Council England for arts and library services, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) awarded The Reading Agency £3.5m to work with public libraries across England to engage with and address the loneliness challenge.

Tackling life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading

The Reading Agency is a national charity that tackles life’s big challenges – including loneliness and poor mental health and wellbeing – through the proven power of reading. In 2020-21, The Reading Agency reached over 1.9 million people across the UK, including more than 950,000 children and over 900,000 adults and young people. It works closely with partners to develop and deliver programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Through this commitment to its mission and vision, The Reading Agency is well placed to respond to public health concerns about the impact of loneliness on the mental and physical health of people across the UK.3

The DCMS funding represented an unprecedented level of investment in library services to tackle loneliness and support mental health. This DCMS support expanded and enhanced two of The Reading Agency’s successful programmes: Reading Well Books on Prescription and Reading Friends. The funds were used to mount the Read, Talk, Share campaign, which provided Reading Well mental health book collections for children, young people and adults to all public libraries in England, as well as significantly expanding the delivery of Reading Friends – a social reading model using reading to bring people together and tackle loneliness – through libraries across England.

Key findings

Of the Reading Friends participants, we found that:

  • 72% of participants agreed that Reading Friends helped them feel less lonely
  • 83% of participants agreed that Reading Friends helped them to feel more
  • connected to other people
  • 74% of participants agreed that Reading Friends added purpose to their week

Befrienders also experienced similar benefits – alongside professional outcomes such as new skills and increased confidence, gained in part to seeing the impact of their work and having a sense of purpose through doing something meaningful:

  • 77% of befrienders agreed that Reading Friends helped them to feel more
  • connected to other people
  • 65% of befrienders agreed that Reading Friends added purpose to their week
  • 54% of befrienders agreed that Reading Friends had increased their confidence to try new things

Our Reading Well rollout saw 311,783 books distributed to 2,975 public and community managed libraries across 150 authorities. From January – May 2021, these books were loaned 70,248 times, consisting of:

  • 31,598 digital loans
  • 38,290 physical loans

24 book titles were donated to libraries by Hachette for free digital simultaneous access from March through June 2021.

Download a full overview of the Read, Talk, Share Evaluation here. If you would like to read the full evaluation report, please contact us at [email protected].


1. What Works Centre for Wellbeing (2020), How has Covid-19 and associated lockdown measures affected loneliness in the UK?; British Red Cross (2020), Lonely and Left Behind: Tackling Loneliness at a Time of Crisis; Mental Health Foundation (2020), Wave 8: Late November 2020
2. Mental Health Foundation (2020), Loneliness during Coronavirus; Mind (2020)
3. Campaign to End Loneliness (2020), Risk to Health
4. Data to support the findings was collected primarily through participation and engagement monitoring; user and partner surveys; and qualitative interviews with stakeholders, participants and volunteers. Additional details on methodology can be found in the full Read, Talk, Share evaluation report.

Zoinul Abidin, Davinia Green and James Sanderson join The Reading Agency’s Board of Trustees

The Reading Agency is delighted to welcome Zoinul Abidin, Davinia Green and James Sanderson to its Board of Trustees. With combined experience in the areas of local government, health, public affairs and operations, the appointments of Zoinul, Davinia and James will help to guide The Reading Agency as it begins to develop its organisational strategy from 2023 onwards.

Zoinul Abidin is a senior local government manager with expertise in library services and community development. He was involved from the beginning of the Idea Store concept and managed several Idea Stores. He is a Clore fellow on the prestigious Clore leadership programme. 

Zoinul is currently Head of Universal Services for London Borough of Barking & Dagenham / with statutory responsibilities for libraries. In addition, he has strategic and operational responsibility for community hubs, front door council services, children centres, healthy lifestyles, social prescribing, community food clubs and a nursery. Zoinul led on the successful Arts Council bid for LBBD library service achieving National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status for its Pen to Print project, a competition to find local writing talent leading to the publication of books by ordinary residents. 

Davinia Green (she/her) is Director for Stonewall Cymru (Wales), where she provides strategic vision, oversight and operational management of activities across Wales. This includes policy, campaigning and public affairs, community engagement, oversight of the workplace and empowerment programmes, along with programmes for work focused on children and young people. Before joining Stonewall, she had a long history of working in the charity sector and has worked for a range of charities including Breast Cancer Care, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Macmillan and Alzheimer’s Society.

Davinia is a health promotion specialist by background, and in particular specialised in developing health promotion programmes for people who face high levels of physical, psychological or structural barriers to optimal health or prevention of disease. 

Davinia has had a number of career highlights, both big and small. However, her most recent highlight was in her last role at the Stroke Association, where she developed and launched the first stroke prevention day for the UK. It was a career highlight as she was able to combine an awareness campaign with a measurable health promotion intervention, enabling the organisation to identify key factors that can influence positive health behaviours related to stroke prevention.  

Davinia has a great love of reading and has a particular passion for crime fiction, her favourite authors include Peter James, Karin Slaughter and Cody MacFadyen. 

James Sanderson is Director of the Personalised Care Group at NHS England and NHS Improvement where he leads on a range of programmes that are supporting people to have greater choice and control over their health and wellbeing. Programmes include: the delivery of the comprehensive model for personalised care; NHS @home; and the National Palliative and End of Life Care Programme. James is also CEO of the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), established by the SofS for Health and Social Care in 2019 to advance social prescribing across the arts, health, sports, leisure, and the natural environment, alongside other aspects of our lives. 

 James joined NHS England in November 2015 and was formerly the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer for the Independent Living Fund (ILF). The ILF was an arm’s length body of the Department for Work and Pensions and supported disabled people across the whole of the UK to live independent lives through the provision of direct payments enabling the purchase of personal assistance support. 

Prior to joining the ILF in 2002, James had a career in the motor industry within a number of sales and marketing roles, in both corporate and retail environments. James is also a performing arts graduate with a background in community theatre. 

Matthew Littleford, Chair of the Board of Trustees, The Reading Agency said: “I’m really delighted that Davinia, James and Zoinul are joining The Reading Agency as trustees. They all get what we’re about and what we want to do in the future. They’re passionate about reading, care deeply about making a difference, and have just the right amount of magic and sparkle. They also know how to get stuff done. I’m delighted they’re joining the rest of us in supporting Karen and the team.”

Zoinul Abidin said: “I am delighted to be joining the Board of Trustees of the Reading Agency. My passion for libraries, communities and reading makes this a natural fit. I believe the power of reading can transform people’s lives and I hope to contribute to the ongoing success of the The Reading Agency.”

Davinia Green said: “I’m really pleased to have been appointed as a trustee to such a wonderful charity. Reading is a real passion of mine and something that I’ve particularly clung to in the last few years with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Reading has helped me to stay positive in times of endurance and has been a friend in times of loneliness. It’s because of this that I am so honoured to support The Reading Agency, which truly understands the power of reading and the positive impact it can have on people’s lives.”

James Sanderson said: “The ability to read has the power to transform lives and improve health and wellbeing through improved skills, knowledge and confidence. That’s why I am delighted to be joining the board of The Reading Agency whose work is invaluable in creating the circumstances to enable people to live their best life.”

Follow the latest developments on social media:


Quick Reads’ Commissioning Editor, Fanny Blake, to leave this month

After 5 successful years, Fanny Blake, is drawing to a close her role as Commissioning Editor of the life changing Quick Reads programme. She will step down from day to day involvement this month with her final set of new titles published on 14 April 2022.

During her time as Commissioning Editor Fanny has commissioned 38 Quick Reads by the UK’s most popular authors including Jojo Moyes, Paula Hawkins, Peter James, Oyinkan Braithwaite and Graham Norton. Fanny has worked with publishers and authors across the sector to ensure Quick Reads provides a diverse, relevant and engaging list each year. During her time as commissioning editor the Quick Reads programme has reached over a million people, through sales, library loans and book donations, providing the first step on their reading journey.

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency, said:

“I would like to thank and pay tribute to Fanny for her commitment to Quick Reads and the new and emerging readers that the programme supports. Fanny’s tireless work over the past 5 years has ensured that Quick Reads has benefitted from the support and talent of some of the UK’s most popular authors and publishers.

The team at The Reading Agency will be very sad to not work with Fanny on a daily basis, however her achievements and support for the programme has ensured we are in an excellent position to take Quick Reads forward and ensure that the programme continues to offer vital reading material for new and reluctant readers across the country. We wish Fanny all the best as she takes some time to focus on her writing and family.”

Fanny Blake, Quick Reads Commissioning Editor, said:

“It’s been extremely rewarding and a privilege to have been commissioning the last 5 years of Quick Reads. I’d just like to thank everyone who’s made it possible: my colleagues at the Reading Agency and the publishers, of course, but most of all the fantastic authors who have given their time and energy to contribute to and support such a worthwhile programme.”

The final set of Quick Reads commissioned by Fanny Blake will be published on 14 April 2022 in collaboration with World Book Night. Eight books will be published, written by an exciting and diverse set of authors: Kate Mosse, Graham Norton, Ayisha Malik, MW Craven, Santa Montefiore, Alex Wheatle, Paula Hawkins and Lemn Sissay. All eight Quick Reads will feature on the World Book Night booklist with publishers committing to gifting 6,000 copies of their title to The Reading Agency who will distribute the books to less confident readers and those with limited access to books.

Books by Dr Alex George, Aliya Ali-Afzal, John le Carré and the Quick Reads authors to be gifted as part of World Book Night 2022

The Reading Agency has today announced the titles that will feature on the booklist for World Book Night 2022, its annual celebration bringing people of all backgrounds together to read more.

World Book Night takes place on 23 April. In 2022, we will be giving away 84,000 books to organisations across the country to gift to people who don’t regularly read for pleasure or with limited access to books. These organisations include prisons, hospitals, youth centres, care homes and mental health groups. Last year, 738 organisations across the UK received titles, including: Bristol Libraries, Farleigh Hospice, ClwydAlyn Housing Ltd, The Prince’s Trust, HMP Edinburgh and more. Organisations can now apply to receive books and help share a love of reading. The closing date for applications is 28 January.

This year’s World Book Night titles have been contributed from publishers including Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Penguin Random House, Walker Books, Canongate, HarperCollins, Head of Zeus, Oneworld, Profile, Simon and Schuster and Bolinda UK. The World Book Night booklist includes a diverse selection of books for adults and young people. The booklist includes: Would I Lie to You?, the debut novel from Aliya Ali-Afzal; The Upper World, a young adult sci-fi drama by Femi Dedugba; and Dr Alex George’s Live Well Every Day.

This year, The Reading Agency’s 2022 Quick Reads titles will be part of the World Book Night celebrations and giveaway. Publishing on 14 April, these eight titles by bestselling authors will help to tackle the UK’s adult literacy crisis by encouraging less confident readers get reading great stories by celebrated authors. Alongside the World Book Night gifting, these titles will also be available to purchase online and through retailers for £1 each.

Quick Reads titles include: historical drama The Black Mountain by award-winning author Kate Mosse; an abridged version of Lemn Sissay’s astonishing memoir, My Name Is Why and The Swimmer by comedian and presenter, Graham Norton. This year also features memoir titles with a focus on prejudice and social belonging including Gyspy Boy by Mikey Walsh and Brown Baby by Nikesh Shukla.

The diverse list of authors and titles for this year’s World Book Night has something for avid readers and those new to reading for pleasure alike.

World Book Night 2022 Titles

  • All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue (Walker Books)
  • Brown Baby by Nikesh Shukla (Pan Macmillan)
  • Dare to Change Your Life by Lawrence Okolie (Ebury)
  • Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Laidlaw by William McIlvanney (Canongate)
  • Live Well Every Day by Dr Alex George (Octopus Publishing Group)
  • My Policeman by Bethan Roberts (Vintage)
  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (HarperCollins Children’s)
  • Recovery by Russell Brand (Pan Macmillan)
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (Oneworld)
  • Straight Outta Crawley by Romesh Ranganathan (Transworld)
  • The Boy Between by Amanda Prowse and Josiah Hartley (Amazon Publishing)
  • The Dinner Guest by BP Walter (One More Chapter, HarperCollins)
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (Bolinda)
  • The Upper World by Femi Fadugba (Penguin Random House Children’s)
  • Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy by John le Carré (Bolinda)
  • Transitions by Various (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)
  • Would I Lie to You? by Aliya Ali-Afzal (Head of Zeus)

Quick Reads 2022 Titles

  • My Name Is Why (abridged) by Lemn Sissay (Canongate)
  • Sofia Kahn and the Baby Blues by Ayisha Malik (Headline)
  • The Cutting Season by MW Craven (Little, Brown)
  • The Swimmer by Graham Norton (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • The Black Mountain by Kate Mosse (Pan Macmillan)
  • Blind Spot by Paula Hawkins (Transworld)
  • Witness by Alex Wheatle (Profile)
  • The Kiss by Santa Montefiore (Simon and Schuster)

Building on World Book Night’s digital offer and improving access to books for the widest possible audience, the World Book Night booklist will continue to feature audiobooks, including Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by the late spy novelist John le Carré, narrated by Michael Jayston and Russell Brand’s Recovery, narrated by the author.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency said: “We’re thrilled to be announcing our World Book Night 2022 booklist. We are so grateful to all the wonderful publishers and authors who are participating this year, including the writers of this year’s brilliant and accessible Quick Reads with the generous support of Jojo Moyes. This year, we want to ensure that there is something for everyone on the list – from those who read avidly, to those who have never picked up a book.”

Author Tayari Jones said: “World Book Night is a gift to readers and writers alike — and I happen to be both, so I am doubly delighted and moved to part of this year’s festivities. Books are paper miracles. They at once allow us the solitude of our own thoughts while also bringing us together with other people who have found themselves immersed in the same stories.  I am very honoured and grateful to be included this year. I don’t know what is more thrilling — the thought of Silver Sparrow reaching new readers, or the idea of readers reaching one another!”

Author Romesh Ranganathan said: “It’s a real honour to have my book used as a way of inspiring new readers, something I feel very passionate about. I hope that it encourages people to take up reading as a regular hobby, as well as maybe convincing my family to read it, as none of them have so far.”

Follow the latest developments on social media:

@WorldBookNight @ReadingAgency

#WorldBookNight #ReadingHour

For all media enquiries, please contact:

Alexander Turton: [email protected]

Four Communications: [email protected]

Join the Winter Mini Challenge!

What is the Winter Mini Challenge?

The Challenge encourages children to keep up their reading habits over the winter holidays, with a free-to-access website featuring rewards and incentives for reading and reviewing books.

This winter we are very excited to announce a return of the Wild World Heroes!
The Reading Agency teamed up with WWF UK for the Wild World Heroes Summer Reading Challenge – exploring nature and action for the environment through reading. Now the Heroes are back to help with the Winter Mini Challenge!

Join the Wild World Heroes as they embark on an Arctic adventure to find out about the creatures that live there. You will find out about the environmental issues facing this remote place and might even spot a narwhal or two.

We’re excited to announce that this year’s Winter Mini Challenge will run from Wednesday 1 December and finish on Sunday 16 January 2022.

Why is the Challenge important?

Over the school holidays children can experience a ‘dip’ in reading skills and learning. With the persistent disruption to education caused by Covid-19 this is predicted to have an even greater impact on learning loss. We hope the Winter Mini Challenge can provide reading encouragement and fun for children and families.

How can children take part in the Winter Mini Challenge?

The Winter Mini Challenge is run through our year-round children’s website.

To take part, children simply read three books or more – these can be any books of their choice. Every time they finish a book, they add it to their Challenge website profile and leave a short book review.

Reaching their online reading goal will unlock a special virtual badge and a new Wild World Hero certificate to print off and keep!

You will also be able to find fun activities, videos and reading recommendations, plus an exciting competition.

Children can visit the Winter Mini Challenge website at from 1 December 2021 to start rating and reviewing their books and enjoying the online activities.

Get involved

Visit our online Shop to download your free Winter Mini Challenge resources pack. The pack includes a brand-new Completer’s Certificate, so you can celebrate reading achievement in your library, school, reading group, activity club, or at home. You will also find a brilliant Arctic-themed Reading Record and Activity Sheet for children to enjoy!

Alongside these, there is a Promotional Poster and our Communications Toolkit packed with social media assets and suggested copy so you can build excitement amongst your young readers.

You can keep up to date with all of The Reading Agency’s latest children’s activities and offers by following our Summer Reading Challenge page on Facebook or following the hashtag #WMC2021.

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