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The Reading Agency receives Big Lottery Fund award to develop reading challenge model for older people


The Reading Agency has received funding from the Big Lottery Accelerating Ideas Fund for a research and development project to explore the feasibility of an older people’s reading challenge. Using Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia as the springboard for developing other reading activities, the project will build on existing challenge models used by shared Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarians programmes such as the Summer Reading Challenge.

The funding will enable The Reading Agency to work with key partners to develop a range of possible reading activities for older people, supported by incentives to read more widely and share their reading with others.  Working with older people, including those with dementia and carers, the charity aims to develop a framework of reading activities to help them access the wellbeing and social opportunities that reading can bring. The project will focus in particular on enabling vulnerable older people at risk of isolation to remain active and engaged through reading with friends, family and wider community networks.

The project will test different incentives to get people reading, including reading groups, author events and book gifting as well as explore the potential for volunteering and digital delivery. The work will be developed in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians who will provide advice and expertise from the public library sector.

Reading Well Books on Prescription has been running in public libraries since 2013, helping people to understand and manage a range of health conditions. Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia was launched in public libraries in January this year. It provides helpful reading accredited by dementia experts to help people live well with the condition, support carers of people with dementia and those worried about their memory. Since the launch of the scheme loans of titles on the booklist have increased by 346% [1]

Debbie Hicks, Creative Director, The Reading Agency says: “The success of Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia shows the vital role that reading and libraries can play in supporting people with dementia and their carers. This new funding from the Big Lottery Accelerating Ideas Fund will help us to investigate ways of building this impact, using established tools such as reading challenges and volunteering to encourage older people to develop their reading journey. We look forward to working closely with the Society of Chief Librarians ands a range of partners on this exciting research and development phase.”

Ciara Eastell, President of the Society of Chief Librarians, says: “Public libraries provide a lifeline of social and wellbeing support for older people, many of whom are isolated and lonely. We are very pleased to be working with The Reading Agency on this important project. This will build on the incredible success of Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia, part of the Universal Health Offer for Public Libraries, and develop a wider programme of reading activities for older people.” Reading Well Books on Prescription Evaluation 2014-15, October 2015

[1] Reading Well Books on Prescription Evaluation 2014-15, October 2015

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