Richard O’Neill is a multi-award winning author and playwright and story skills trainer who sat down with us to share his experiences of Reading Friends in Oldham. 

Ernest Hemmingway apparently once said, “there’s no friend as loyal as a book”. What about a friend who reads to you? We know that libraries can be places of creative and intellectual sanctuary, refuge, hope and companionship. We chatted to the British Library in their Anything But Silent podcast about Reading Friends in Swansea. Have a listen here, and meet Reading Friend Eileen at Singleton Hospital.

“When you’re in here, and you haven’t gotten a visitor or anything and everyone else has, you haven’t got anyone to talk to”

Reading Friend, Eileen

Reading Friends has been working in hospitals for a number of years. Through our work we know that there is something quite comforting about being read to. When you’re read to as a child it feels comforting and safe – like a place of sanctuary, perhaps. Our Reading Friends read anything that sparks a conversation for them. We have found that the Pictures to Share books have been enormously helpful in doing this. People really love to read them.

Although wards can appear quite busy, people get isolated

As part of the podcast, the British Library also chatted to our Reading Friends Co-ordinator. Prue runs Reading Friends at the hospital and is also the Arts in Health Co-ordinator for the Swansea Health Board.

“The wards can appear quite busy, but in fact people get isolated because the staff are rushing around, you don’t have visitors very often perhaps and you cant get up and potter around like you can at home”

Prue Thimbleby

Reading Friends helps not only the people who are in the hospitals, but also the volunteers who read with them. One volunteer said of her experiences:

“As a person, I’m not particularly outgoing so I find having these books is a helpful tool for me to launch into conversation and build up a relationship”

Reading Friends volunteer

Get involved

Listen to the full British Library podcast here. You can find us at 22 minutes!

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