The Reading Agency has received a one-year funding grant from the Ulverscroft Foundation to develop and expand work with visually impaired people. The grant will support Reading Friends, the charity's reading and befriending initiative which encourages reading as a means of starting conversation and connecting people socially around shared stories, interests and passions.
The funding will enable The Reading Agency to work with library authorities to build on their work with visually impaired people through Reading Friends. The Reading Agency will be running co-production workshops, creating resources and training support, and sharing our impact and learning with partners, library authorities and the wider library sector.
Findings in 2022 from people with sight loss taking part in Reading Friends, in public libraries demonstrated real impact supporting wellbeing, creating meaningful connections and helping to reduce loneliness, thereby making a real difference to people's lives through the power of reading. By taking part in the programme, 83% of people with visual impairment surveyed said they felt less lonely, 90% felt more connected to others and 79% had increased life satisfaction.
One participant said: "I really enjoy the Reading Friends group where I can meet people (now friends) with similar struggles. It was such a shock losing my sight and I have found so much help and support within the group."
One of the volunteer befrienders said of the Reading Friends programme more widely: "I am often humbled when I realise how much the reading groups impact on people's lives. They share life experiences, reminisce and connect with each other over a cuppa and a story. It's very powerful."
Through this funding, The Reading Agency will collaborate with Share the Vision and its members to share learnings and good practice, bringing the power of reading to more visually impaired people across the UK.
Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency said: "We are immensely grateful to the Ulverscroft Foundation for their support of our Reading Friends work. Reading has such a powerful impact on communities, helping to spark conversations and build connections and friendships. This funding will allow us to ensure the needs of people experiencing sight loss are a core focus as we continue to expand and develop the programme."
Robert Gent, Chair of the Ulverscroft Foundation, said: "We are excited to see The Reading Agency expanding its Reading Friends initiative, and delighted to be able to help. We hope many more blind and visually-impaired people will be inspired to join in, make new friends and enjoy life more - all through the power of books and reading."