Reading Friends is our UK-wide programme, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, which connects people by starting conversations through reading. 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. Reading Friends aims to empower, engage and connect people who are vulnerable, isolated and at risk of loneliness. Our programme has a particular focus on people with dementia and carers.
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. Reading Friends is now rolling out to new areas across the UK.
Our projects will continue to deliver a range of shared reading models to connect people in settings including libraries, care homes and sheltered housing. It will build on the experiences of the test phase to develop intergenerational opportunities, working with schools and colleges, as well as looking at ways to reach diverse and isolated communities.
The Reading Agency, Literature Wales and Verbal Northern Ireland run Reading Friends in England, Scotland, Wales and 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
If you'd like to find out more about Reading Friends and get involved, you can sign up to take part, or head to the Reading Friends website to find out more.
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↩