Girls Aloud singer and mental health campaigner Nicola Roberts is among ambassadors championing the Reading Agency’s Read, Talk, Share initiative, aiming to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through reading.
The initiative will expand the agency's Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes. The Reading Well support service recommends books suggested by health experts, to those struggling with their mental health, and works closely with libraries across England to facilitate access to the reading list, while Reading Friends is run by volunteers, and connects people via video and phone calls, to discuss stories and read.
Topics explored in both schemes include mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy; coping with grief, anxiety, depression, and stress; and understanding bullies, body dysmorphia, ADHD, autism and OCD. Books from each list will be available for borrowing and e-lending from library authorities across England.
Roberts is joined by author ambassadors Amanda Prowse, who co-wrote The Boy Between: A Mother and Son’s Journey From a World Gone Grey (Little A) with her son Josiah, who has experienced depression and suicidal thoughts. Mental health campaigner and author Natasha Devon whose mental health guide, A Beginner’s Guide to Being Mental: An A-Z, was published in 2018 by Bluebird, is also an ambassador.
Roberts said: “Wherever you are or whatever your circumstances, a good book enables you to leave your reality and get lost in the story you can’t put down. There’s a comfort in the occupancy you can’t quite explain. During lockdown, especially for those living alone, while there is nothing to busy your mind but TV and your own thoughts, reading can be a therapeutic escape.
“I often feel like I’m not being productive enough and with so many of us, especially those in the arts, not being able to do what we love, it’s sounds small but the tiniest achievement of finishing a book really does give some self-satisfaction. I haven’t been an avid reader all my life and it’s only been since the world slowed due to the pandemic that I have grown to love reading as much as I do now. I wish I had made more time for reading as a girl while growing into a woman. That’s why I’m proud to champion Read, Talk, Share which ultimately is about the power of books to bring us together, uplift us and help us through life’s challenges.”
Prowse added: “I'm absolutely thrilled to be an author ambassador for The Reading Agency's Read, Talk, Share campaign. Their Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes do absolutely vital work to support mental health and tackle loneliness — work which is needed now more than ever. I'm looking forward to working with them over the coming weeks to help further their mission and share the proven power of reading across the country!”
Devon said: “'Stories are really important to human development and psychology: They help us to feel connected to the human experience and explore places and possibilities. The imagination can also be a sanctuary from difficult thoughts and emotions, while discussing literature can be a way to genuinely connect without having to constantly focus on realities which may be stressful. For all these reasons, access to books and people to discuss them with has never been more needed than during the pandemic, when so many of us are struggling with isolation and anxiety. The Reading Agency's Read, Talk, Share campaign will have a tangible positive impact on the mental health of the people it reaches.”
The Read,Talk, Share initiative is funded by a £3.5million award from Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Karen Napier, c.e.o. of the Reading Agency, commented: “Tackling loneliness and supporting mental health and wellbeing across the country has always been a priority for The Reading Agency. The ongoing Covid-19 crisis' impact on the country’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing cannot be underestimated, and our Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes are perfectly placed to assist the nation in recovery. Our mission remains to help people tackle life’s challenges through the proven power of reading, and to bring people together, ease our burdens, and foster wellbeing and understanding. We are immensely grateful to DCMS for their support — this feels like a real vote of continued confidence in the role of public libraries and their important contribution to society.”