The Reading Agency has been given £3.5m as part of a government £7.5m funding package to tackle loneliness over the winter period.
Funds will be used by the charity for its Reading Well project—a selection of books curated by health professionals—and its Reading Friends programme.
The money will help provide Reading Well mental health book collections for children, young people and adults to all public libraries in England.
It will also expand the delivery of Reading Friends through libraries, a shared reading model which brings people together and tackle loneliness.
Karen Napier, c.e.o. of The Reading Agency said: “Tackling loneliness and mental health issues across the country has always been a priority for us and sits at the heart of our mission of tackling life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. This year has demonstrated that our work is needed more than ever, and this funding means that we are able to support the important work of every public library in England.
“We are immensely proud of our Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes, and look forward to expanding their reach and impact with thanks to this funding, and by working in partnership with public libraries to aid the country's recovery in 2021. This feels like a real vote of continued confidence in the role of public libraries and their important contribution to society."
The money is awarded by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport via a £5m Arts Council England grant, with some of the remainder going to two existing programmes, Creative People & Places and Celebrating Age, which create opportunities for social connections through arts and cultural spaces.
Caroline Dinenage, libraries minister, said: “From hosting virtual versions of groups like Rhyme Time, to making more of the most popular titles available for loan as e-books, libraries across the country have adapted quickly to the pandemic so they can continue to act as a crucial community resource to people of all ages, and protect them from the risk of isolation.
“This funding will enable The Reading Agency to deepen and widen the impact of their partnerships with libraries. It will also allow libraries’ invaluable work to continue, with a particular focus on providing reading materials and support on how we can look after our mental health during this challenging winter period.”