The Reading Agency chosen for Times Christmas Appeal 2019

Published Fri 6 Dec 2019 - By Literature Wales
Img: Dimitris Legakis/ Athena Pictures - Singleton Hospital, Swansea

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, through a number of articles focusing on the work that takes place in Swansea, Conwy and other places across the UK. The full list of articles can be read here. 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 lonely[1], 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 in the over-60 age group alone[2], and that almost two million will have a shortened life due to loneliness[3].


Lleucu Siencyn, Chief Executive of Literature Wales said:

“Reading is a fundamentally creative activity, and Reading Friends provides the opportunity for some of our most isolated individuals to share the joy of reading. Here at Literature Wales, we believe that everyone should be able to participate in the literary arts, but not everyone has access to the same opportunities. We’re extremely thankful that this partnership with The Reading Agency has enabled us to extend this opportunity to individuals in Wales, and very pleased that The Times has chosen to highlight its impact this Christmas.”


Reading Friends in Wales has been developed and is being run with the support of Literature Wales, who joined the programme in 2017, and now operates in Swansea Bay University Health Board and Conwy Library Services among other locations. Reading Friends now has 45 projects across the UK designed to address loneliness throughout the year. Over the past 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

Literature Wales