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Reading Friends

The Reading Agency chosen for  The Times Christmas Appeal  2019

Written by Alison Blaxland
28 November 2019

The Reading Agency is a UK-wide charity using the proven power of reading to  tackle  life’s big challenges  of  social mobility,  mental health and wellbeing and loneliness.  Every year the organisation reaches  1.4 million people across the UK  with the support of  13,817 partner organisations,  ensuring that everyone is reading their way to a better life. This Christmas, The Reading Agency has been selected as one of the  charities to be  featured in The Times Christmas Appeal for 2019. 

The Christmas Appeal will focus on the charity’s work on loneliness and reading,  highlighting  their inspiring Reading Friends programme. Launched in 2017 with  funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, Reading Friends tackles loneliness  using reading to start conversations and connect people socially.  The scheme uses the power of a shared story in  libraries, prisons, care homes, community centres, and recovery cafes to tackle loneliness in the UK.  

Karen Napier, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency says: “We’re delighted to be included in this year’s Christmas Appeal in The Times. It’s a really fantastic opportunity to highlight the impact that reading can have on tackling loneliness and social isolation. As a charity, we’re committed to ensuring that everyone has the tools to read their way to a better life, and our Reading Friends programme is a testament to the impact that shared reading can have.”

A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross found that over 9 million people across the UK are either always or often lonely1, and Christmas is a time when this becomes particularly evident. Last year, The Reading Agency also commissioned think-tank Demos to conduct independent research into the impact of reading on some of society’s most pressing concerns. The report, A Society of Readers, predicted that there will be over seven million people experiencing loneliness in the over-60 age group alone2, and that almost two million will have a shortened life due to loneliness3.  

Damian Hughes, son of Reading Friends participant Brian, says: “I have witnessed the terrible fog of isolation, fear and loneliness which can descend upon those who live with the cruel illness of dementia which considerably narrows their world. I have also witnessed the transformative ability that reading can have upon this condition; helping to open memories, and stir long-dormant emotions. Reading Friends provides this stimulus for many people, from those who are living with the condition, their carers and loved ones alike. I think the work of The Reading Agency is invaluable.”

Reading Friends now has 45 projects across the UK designed to address loneliness throughout the year. Last year, the programme reached over 1,500 participants and 200 volunteers through 21 local projects.  Data  from the programme has found that  94% of Reading Friends participants would recommend Reading Friends to others, and that  90% of volunteers want to carry on volunteering on a Reading Friends project.  The Reading Agency is hopeful that The Times Christmas Appeal will inspire readers to help the charity continue their important work tackling life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading.  

  1. Co-op and the British Red Cross (2016) Trapped in a bubble
  2. Hilhorst, S, et al. (2018) A Society of Readers Demos
  3. Hilhorst, S, et al. (2018) A Society of Readers Demos

For more media information please contact us on 0207 324 2553 or [email protected] 

Notes to editors

About The Reading Agency 

The Reading Agency is a national charity that tackles life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. We work closely with partners to develop and deliver programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds. The Reading Agency is funded by Arts Council England. 

Reading Friends is a nationwide programme developed by The Reading Agency and with seed funding from the National Lottery Community Fund. The programme is delivered in partnership with organisations across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Reading Friends is an intergenerational programme that empowers, and connects people experiencing loneliness by starting conversations through reading.

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