Launch of Reading for Wellbeing with author Ann Cleeves.

‘Stories can be healing. If we’re drowning in chaotic thoughts of our own, to step inside someone else’s head, just for a while, is a kind of freedom.’ – Ann Cleeves

Reading for Wellbeing is a community-based approach to helping people experience the positive influence of books and reading on their wellbeing, initiated by ‘Vera’ author Ann Cleeves.

The Reading for Wellbeing pilot project was launched in the North East of England in 2021. Nine Community Reading Workers were recruited across six local authority areas to support access to books, reading and stories to help improve health and wellbeing in specific communities across the North East.

Backed by international bestselling author and North East resident Ann Cleeves, to mark the 21st anniversary of her North East detective character Vera Stanhope, the project was established in recognition of the solace Ann has found in stories and reading throughout her life, and in wanting to give something back to the region.

Working in targeted areas, Community Reading Workers support, empower and motivate individuals and families to proactively improve their health and wellbeing. They do this by providing tailored, practical help – including access to books/audio books, accessible non-threatening spaces and places for reading, and emotional support.

Having been successfully trialled across the region in six local authorities, the project is now set to roll out across six more North East local authorities and other areas of the UK. The project has also received support from Arts Council England and the National Academy of Social Prescribing in raising awareness of the model beyond the North East.

‘I can’t believe how this project has developed since we first discussed it.  It works because everyone involved – those working in public health, libraries, and the voluntary sector – have been flexible, passionate and committed.  It helps that organisations in the North East are brilliant at partnership working.  I’m so proud to be a part of it.’ – Ann Cleeves

Partnership approach
The project has been supported regionally by the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities North East and the Population Health & Prevention Board within the North East & North Cumbria Integrated Care System. Locally, effective partnerships with local public health, libraries, voluntary and community sector and social prescribing partners have been established, using a range of different delivery approaches targeting some of the most disadvantaged areas and communities. Initial pump priming funding was provided by Ann Cleeves matched by contributions from the six local authority areas involved, with each area targeting the project delivery based on local needs.

A regional steering group involving current and emerging project leads from public health and libraries within participating Local Authorities has been established supported by the project core team.

Further pump priming funding to enable more North East & North Cumbria local authority areas to join the project has been provided via the North East & North Cumbria Integrated Care Board as one of their healthy communities and social prescribing priorities.

Training for Community Reading Workers
The project’s nine Community Reading Workers benefitted from bespoke induction training developed and delivered by Opening the Book on how to facilitate conversations and maximise engagement in the project and reading for pleasure. They brought people together to share their experiences and discuss books in local groups within local community settings.

Evaluation findings
Reading for Wellbeing has been independently evaluated with funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria.

Evaluation findings identified that the project offered a sense of respite to participants who were experiencing emotional hardship linked to life-changing events such as bereavement, retirement or caring responsibilities and that embracing reading for pleasure within group settings enabled participants to build connections and enhance personal capacities that could improve their wellbeing.

A Learning Report has also been produced and both reports are available to download on the Reading for Wellbeing website

Find out more
The Reading for Wellbeing website provides a rich insight into the impact the project is having and includes a video with testimonials from both participants and workers:

For further information contact Jane Hartley, Reading for Wellbeing Development Co-ordinator:


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