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Reading Friends

Running a Reading Friends project

This page is for community organisations and public libraries who’d like to start running Reading Friends and become part of the Reading Friends community. At the moment only organisations can run Reading Friends, not individuals, as we need to make sure that there are appropriate policies and procedures in place to keep everyone safe.

Everyone involved is a Reading Friend, we just all have different roles. At the heart of every Reading Friends project is the Reading Friends Coordinator, who ensures its smooth running. They are also the ones recruiting and supporting volunteer reading befrienders and staff to run sessions.

Let’s tell you a bit more about Reading Friends, why it’s needed and what you need to start your project.

The Reading Agency , with support from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, expanded through public library services in England in 2021. We are working on other models so other organisations can take part. If you’re a different organisation, please register your interest, and we can let you know when we’re able to expand further.

Register your interest

What is it?

Reading Friends connects people by starting conversations through reading, providing opportunities to meet others, share stories, make new friends, and have fun. It creates social connections and takes a person-centred approach, building on interests and hobbies to get people talking.

Watch Yarn Natter Blether and Reading Friends in Wales to see some of our participants and volunteers who met in-person before Covid and view our sharing stories section for more. Projects have been increasingly running Reading Friends over the phone and virtually during the pandemic.

Read our Guiding Principles to find out what makes us different! We aren’t a traditional reading group and people taking part in Reading Friends don’t need to be ‘readers’ as reading is used as a conversation starter, to create connections and to help people get to know each other.

Why it’s needed? 

Our evaluations have found that Reading Friends creates meaningful connections, builds positive relationships and a sense of community1, all of which are needed at the moment. Even before the pandemic, loneliness and social isolation were big issues2, but Covid-19 has amplified this3. Take a look in more detail at some of the research from 2020.

What do you need?

You need to have appropriate policies and procedures in place. We have information about useful ones once you get started with Reading Friends, but these are some of the key policies you must have:

  • Safeguarding
  • Health and Safety
  • Data protection or Privacy
  • EDI policy
  • A volunteer policy
  • Risk assessments

When we’re ready to expand further, the next step is to sign an agreement, then we give you access to our training and resources. In the meantime, please register your interest above to run Reading Friends.

  1. Renaisi (2019) – Tackling loneliness through reading
  2. The Campaign to End Loneliness – The Facts on loneliness
  3. British Red Cross (2020) – Life after Lockdown and Lonely and left behind. What Works Wellbeing (2020) How has Covid-19 affected loneliness

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