The Power of Reading: how books can help to tackle life’s challenges

At The Reading Agency we work every day towards a world where everyone is reading their way to a better life. We mean everyone – irrespective of age or economic background. Reading can tackle life’s big challenges, from social mobility to mental health – and in 2019-20, The Reading Agency reached over 1.8 million people across the UK.

The benefits of reading have been proven time and again with clear evidence, finding that reading for pleasure enhances empathy, understanding of the self, and the ability to understand one’s own and others’ identities.

The rise of loneliness in the UK is a challenge that our Read, Talk, Share initiative is currently tackling, supporting the nation’s wellbeing through the proven power of reading during the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery.

Read, Talk, Share, enabled by a £3.5 million award by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), has expanded The Reading Agency’s successful Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes: initiatives that demonstrate the power of reading to support and connect isolated individuals and improve mental health.

Reading Well’s mental health book collections are now available in every library in England as part of the Read, Talk, Share campaign, with many titles available as eBooks and audiobooks – so that everyone can access the support they need.

Ensuring that everyone can feel the positive impacts of reading on health and wellbeing is so important to us, which is why we connected with Calibre Audio.

Calibre Audio share the ambition of The Reading Agency for as many people as possible to benefit from the sense of wellbeing that reading can bring. The aim at Calibre Audio is to bring the joy of reading to all and provide a completely free audiobook service for anyone with a disability that makes reading print difficult.

Providing accessible audiobooks has proven to be especially necessary during the recent lockdowns when so many of our readers have been isolated or without regular contact and connection. In times like these, audiobooks have such an important role to play and have been described by members as a ‘lifeline’.

“This has certainly helped to make isolation more bearable. It is such a relief to hear a wallet drop through the letterbox. It means that for a few hours one can escape from all the present problems.” – Calibre Audio member.

Only a small percentage of print books are converted to accessible audio, the format needed for people with print or reading disabilities, yet the demand for audio is on the rise. Sight loss is expected to rise from 2 to 4 million by 2050, dementia expected to rise to over 1 million by 2025, and it’s estimated that 6 million people in the UK are dyslexic.

For children and young people who struggle with reading, whether they have dyslexia, a visual impairment or a disability that makes reading print difficult, a lack of access to books can have serious implications on their ability to learn and develop. It can also be very isolating and have impacts on their confidence, independence and self-worth.

“My son is so grateful that he is able to listen to his school reading book that is not available anywhere else. He finds it so hard to read and now he can keep up with his classmates thanks to you.” – parent of a Calibre Audio member.

It’s so important for accessible audiobooks to continue to be produced, whether the books are specifically tailored for self-help and mental health, or simply for the act of enjoyment and escapism into the realm of story. In March this year Calibre Audio focused on Reading for Wellbeing, looking at the ways reading can help, from books that make you laugh to those that help you confront concerns. We plan to add more titles to our collection later this year, such as the excellent range available on The Reading Agency’s Reading Well Booklist, which are available at your local library.

Calibre Audio provides a free audiobook service for anyone who finds reading print difficult. Find out more here.

The Reading Agency

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