The Reading Agency announced today it has received funding from Arts Council England to expand and enhance Reading Well, its innovative reading and health initiative delivered as part of the public library health offer, in partnership with public libraries
Reading Well provides quality assured reading recommendations to support people in managing their health and wellbeing. Books can be recommended by health professionals and are also available for anyone to borrow from public libraries. Reading Well booklists cover mental health for adults, children and young people with a refresh of the existing dementia list underway. The booklists are developed through an evidence-based process involving health experts and people with lived experience of the conditions covered. To date, over 3.3 million Reading Well books have been borrowed from libraries since the program's launch in 2013.
The new funding will allow Reading Well to scale its reach and impact over the next two years with a focus on addressing health inequality by:
- Building publisher engagement through sharing Reading Well data, learning and user evidence to support the commissioning of authentic and needs led factual and creative health content.
- Building new and existing health and social prescribing partnerships to support signposting to and engagement with Reading Well content.
- Delivering a community champions pilot to deliver Reading Well focused events and activities to amplify engagement among at-risk groups in three pilot areas across the UK.
The two-year project will build on the successful DCMS-funded rollout of the Reading Well mental health lists for adults, children and young people during the Covid pandemic and will help to empower people to better understand and manage their health and wellbeing through the power of reading. The project will be activated through the library Universal Health Offer supports library users' health through information sharing, engagement opportunities and effective signposting.
Evidence shows a significant impact for Reading Well users. 91% of surveyed readers found their book helpful, 83% said it helped them to understand their health needs and 71% felt it improved self-management. 89% of health professionals surveyed said the books supported people outside of consultation time
Karen Napier CEO, The Reading Agency, said: "The link between reading for pleasure and empowerment and people's sense of wellbeing is clear. We are delighted to have Arts Council England's support to grow Reading Well and empower more people to take control of their health through the power of reading."
The funding aims to embed the Reading Well model as a cornerstone of community health support underpinning health literacy and supporting the wellbeing of individuals and communities across the country including those most at risk of experiencing health inequality. For more information, visit www.reading-well.org.uk.
The Reading Agency receives regular funding as an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. The Reading Well project is supported by an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant.