Reading Friends is our UK-wide programme, developed with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, which connects people by starting conversations through reading.
Our mission at The Reading Agency is to tackle life's big challenges, such as loneliness and isolation, through the proven power of reading. Reading Friends gives opportunities for people who are vulnerable, isolated and at risk of loneliness to meet others, share their stories, make new friends and have fun. It creates social connections and takes a person-centred approach, building on interests and hobbies of the people involved to share stories and get people talking. Delivered by volunteers and co-produced with our participants, Reading Friends meet regularly to chat and share stories in groups or one-to-one sessions.
The programme has been running since June 2017 and has seen The Reading Agency work in partnership with a range of organisations and communities to test different approaches to delivery, gradually expanding across the UK. Please note that during these difficult times, some Reading Friends projects have temporarily suspended or will be running differently. Reading Friends met face-to-face prior to Covid-19 but now our projects are starting to pilot telephone and virtual models.
The Reading Agency work in collaboration with our partners Literature Wales and Verbal in Northern Ireland.
Why Reading Friends matters
• Loneliness and social isolation is a significant health and wellbeing issue for older people. 8-10% of people aged 65 and older are often or always lonely, while 12% feel socially isolated1
• Research shows that reading together can help older people to build social networks and connect with others. Evidence also shows that reading has a positive impact on empathy, cognitive function and wellbeing and can reduce the risk of dementia2
• Age UK's research shows that maintaining meaningful engagement with the world around you is key to wellbeing. Taking part in activities that support wellbeing is most difficult for people who are lonely and isolated or in poor health3
• It also finds that creative and cultural participation makes the highest contribution to an older person's wellbeing4
• By May 2020, 41% of UK adults reported feeling lonelier since lockdown, and 1 in 3 had not had a meaningful conversation in the last week.5
If you are interested in starting Reading Friends, volunteering or joining a group, please sign up now. In the meantime, take a look at our Stay Connected! resources which give plenty of tips, activities, ideas and links to support you during this time
1. Oxfordshire Age UK (2012) Loneliness - the state we're in p.13↩
2. BOP Consulting for The Reading Agency (2015) Literature Review: the impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment]↩
3. Hughes et al (2010) Engagement in reading and hobbies and risk of incident dementia: The MoVIES project OECD ↩
4. Age UK, Green et al (2017) Age UK's Index of Wellbeing in Later Life↩
5. British Red Cross (2020) Life after lockdown: Tackling loneliness among those left behind↩