What is Read, Talk, Share?

Read, Talk, Share is an initiative to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through the proven power of reading during the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery.

Read, Talk, Share will expand The Reading Agency’s already successful Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes. The two initiatives demonstrate the power of reading to support and connect isolated individuals, and the benefits of bibliotherapy to mental health. The Reading Well book collections will be in every library across the country and are available as eBooks and Reading Friends activity is popping up all over England. Supporting you and your loved ones at this challenging time.

Find your local library here and ask them about accessing Reading Friends and Reading Well in your local area or check out the Reading Well and Reading Friends websites.

Reading Well – social prescribing for better mental health

Reading Well supports people in their journey towards better mental health by making helpful books recommended by health experts easily accessible to readers of all ages.

About Reading Well:
Each year Reading Well books are borrowed 350,000 times (almost 2.5m book loans since in 2013 and 1.25 million individual users). The aim is to support people to manage their health and wellbeing through the proven power of reading. 89% of borrowers report that the book helped them understand more about their health needs.

How does the programme work?
Health professionals refer patients to their library to discover the booklists – so-called ‘social prescribing’. We work with the national public library network, NHS England and the National Academy of Social Prescribing to ensure clinicians are aware about the scheme. Many people also discover these books for themselves, often signposted by our marketing efforts. 

Running successfully for eight years, we operate five schemes: Reading Well for mental health, for dementia, for young people, for children and for long term conditions. In Wales the scheme is bilingual. 

Reading Well and Read, Talk, Share:
During March and April 2021 Reading Well is dramatically expanding: more than 375,000 books have been distributed to 3,600 locations including 3,000 libraries. Every Library in England will be sent 82 books (as well as accompanying digital collections) covering each of the three Reading Well mental health schemes, Reading Well for Children, Young People and Adults. Topics explored include mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy; coping with grief, anxiety, depression, and stress; understanding bullies, body dysmorphia, ADHD, autism, and OCD; and much more.

With libraries closed, publishers have agreed to make titles available for e-lending, ensuring the availability of the most comprehensive range of e-book titles we have ever been able to offer. There will also be a physical book collection for each scheme for every library in an authority for use when libraries re-open.

Find your local library and ask them about Reading Well and how you can get involved or check out the Reading Well website.

Reading Friends – reading as a way to connect people and combat loneliness

Reading Friends is a nationwide programme which uses reading as a way to connect people by starting conversations, targeting the most vulnerable, isolated and those at risk of loneliness. 

About Reading Friends:
Reading Friends brings people together to read, share stories, meet new friends, and have fun, tackling the big life challenge of social isolation. The programme is delivered by volunteers and co-produced with its participants to ensure it meets each person’s needs and matches their interests, in groups and one-to-one sessions. After taking part, 83% of participants and 95% of volunteers reported feeling more connected to other people. Have a look at some of the case studies from Reading Friends participants.

How does the programme work?
The programme has a flexible format – it’s not a structured book group or literary model. Material includes books, newspapers, poems, e-books or audio books, quotes and short stories. Reading and sharing stories is ‘in the moment’ – participants don’t have to read something before a session. Typically, before Covid-19, sessions ran in small groups (3-10 people) in libraries and community venues.

Reading Friends, Covid-19 and Read, Talk, Share:
In March 2020 Reading Friends faced the challenge of continuing to deliver support when social isolation and loneliness were pressing issues but with existing ways of working became unavailable. We adapted, starting 1-to-1 calls over the phone, posting reading materials, letter writing, and group Zoom sessions. Now, following the award of DCMS grant funding Reading Friends is dramatically scaling up between February to April 2021, making at least 16,000 connections for some of the UK’s most isolated people.

The Reading Agency will be able to provide funding, training and resources for over 100 library authorities in England to deliver Reading Friends to a broad range of audiences, using socially distanced and telephone/video call befriending models. There’s real flexibility how sessions are run but typically they last 1 hour and are held weekly. 

Find your local library and ask them about Reading Friends and how you can get involved or check out the Reading Friends website.

The Reading Agency are asking the nation to read, talk and share this Winter.

We know that not everyone can access the digital services whilst they are at home. The physical book collections and in person activity will be available as soon as it is safe to do so. Libraries are planning for the relaxing of restrictions and looking forward to being able to resume click and collect and loan services as soon as possible.

Keep up to date with the Read, Talk, Share campaign by following @ReadingAgency on social media and checking in on our hashtag #ReadTalkShare.

Let’s tackle loneliness and support mental health, together, through the proven power of reading.  

Read, Talk, Share ambassadors announced | Government announces funding to tackle loneliness

The Reading Agency

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