Using reading to connect people and combat loneliness
Reading Friends brings people together to read, share stories, meet new friends, and have fun, tackling the big life challenge of social isolation.
Reading Friends is a national programme, run in partnership with The Reading Agency and developed with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund. Worcestershire libraries are one of 75 partners across the UK currently taking part.
The aim is simple. We want to help tackle loneliness and isolation by enabling people to come together to chat and share stories. Worcestershire libraries’ Reading Friends programme is delivered by volunteers and library staff. It is centred around the participants to ensure it meets each person's needs and matches their interests, this can be through groups or one to one sessions.
It can be as simple as a chat over the phone or a group discussion about a specific book author or genre.
How to get involved
Across the UK, Reading Friends are chatting, reading, meeting new people and having fun.
We have created several ways in which the public can join in and become more connected through enhanced services which are supported by our volunteers.
The main offers are Library Service at Home, Connect Bubbles and Reading Friend one-to-one calls
Library Service at Home
The Library Service at Home (LSAH) supports Worcestershire residents who are unable to access their local library or the mobile library because of age, disability or long-term illness, which normally confines them to their home and have no relatives or friends who can visit a branch or mobile library on their behalf.
Each month a volunteer picks a selection of books (including large print & spoken word) based on your preferences and delivers them to your home.
Those using the Library Service at Home can also access one-to-one calls with a Reading Friend volunteer to discuss the books that have been chosen for them.
To discuss the Library Service at Home with a member of library staff please call 01905 822722
Be part of a safe, online library community, led by library staff and volunteers, and connect with others over a shared interest or activity.
Library ‘Connect Bubbles’ are small group chat sessions focused on different topics which take place online via Zoom. We run a number of ‘Book Bubbles’ that explore different authors and genres as well as general book chat and others that explore board games, knitting, craft, art, photography, seated dance!
There is no obligation to lead a conversation or be ‘well read’, if you simply want to watch, listen and join in when you are ready, you are more than welcome.
We welcome any suggestions for themes that volunteers, and the public would like to be made available.
Book your place on a Connect Bubble via the Worcestershire Libraries Eventbrite page (opens in a new window)
If you would like to join a Connect Bubble but do not have the digital skills or confidence to use Zoom, we can help. Get a call back from a library Digital Champion by calling 01905 822722 or book an ‘Introduction to Zoom’ session (opens in a new window)
Reading Friend one-to-one calls
Do you like to talk about books and reading?
If you don’t want to join an online group, ask about our Reading Friends service where we can pair you up with someone for a one-to-one book chat.
Become a volunteer
Worcestershire libraries have lots of volunteering opportunities.
If you would like to become a Reading Friend and have time in your day to ring someone who needs a chat, or support the Library Service at Home by picking and delivering books we’d love to hear from you.
Reading Friends - Why it matters*
- loneliness and social isolation are a significant health and wellbeing issue for older people. 8-10% of people aged 65 and older are often or always lonely, while 12% feel socially isolated
- research shows that reading together can help older people to build social networks and connect with others. Evidence also shows that reading has a positive impact on empathy, cognitive function and wellbeing and can reduce the risk of dementia
- Age UK's research shows that maintaining meaningful engagement with the world around you are key to wellbeing. Taking part in activities that support wellbeing is most difficult for people who are lonely and isolated or in poor health
- it also finds that creative and cultural participation makes the highest contribution to an older person's wellbeing
- by May 2020, 41% of UK adults reported feeling lonelier since lockdown, and 1 in 3 had not had a meaningful conversation in the last week
*Information provided by The Reading Agency