Reading Friends

Tackling loneliness and mental health through the power of reading

Northumberland Libraries has received funding from The Reading Agency to help tackle loneliness and promote wellbeing. 
The Reading Agency has awarded the library service £10,000 through it’s new campaign Read, Talk, Share with helps to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through the power of reading during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Enabled by a £3.5 million award by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), Read, Talk, Share will expand The Reading Agency’s already successful Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes, with the charity’s work to tackle loneliness and support mental health and wellbeing identified by the Government as a key aspect of the nation’s Covid recovery. The two initiatives demonstrate the power of reading to support and connect isolated individuals, and the benefits of bibliotherapy to mental health. The DCMS funding presents an unprecedented level of investment in library services to tackle loneliness and support mental health, and The Reading Agency will work closely with local libraries and organisations to reach communities through reading, talking, and sharing. 
The Read, Talk, Share campaign launched on the 3rd February with a social, press and media campaign championed by well-known ambassadors. 
Northumberland libraries will be delivering two strands of Reading Friends Initiatives 
Mum’s the Word Reading Friends Groups will meet weekly on Zoom to reach out to expectant and new mothers who may be experiencing isolation and loneliness  
Reading Friends Telephone Friends will build on our existing Befrienders programme to match participants with a friendly member of library staff for a weekly chat about books, life and everything in between. 
Northumberland Libraries will enjoy a significant boost to their digital and physical library collections as The Reading Agency will also move forward with a very significant national library and health sector rollout of Reading Well mental health schemes for children, young people and adults, along with supporting book collections. Substantial investment in evaluation of the impact of the Reading Well scheme will also run alongside during this time period. Every library in England will be gifted these Reading Well book collections. The Reading Agency is partnering with publishers and e-lending partners to offer titles in e-book and e-audio format to ensure this opportunity is as inclusive and accessible as possible. 
Cllr Jeff Watson, cabinet member for libraries at Northumberland County Council said: “It is vitally important at the moment that we stay connected and a love of reading a great way of maintaining or establishing new relationships. 
“This funding will allow us to expand on the already successful befriending service by being able to reach a wider audience, as well as being able to connect with new and expectant mums who are finding the current situation particularly isolating.” 
If you know a family member, friend or neighbour who might benefit from becoming involved with Reading Friends, please contact 
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