Since winter 2019, Literature Wales has been working in partnership with Conwy Library Service, Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB), Aura Libraries in Flintshire and Cardiff Libraries to roll out Reading Friends in a variety of settings across Wales.
Reading Friends Conwy, having delivered the project since the start in 2017, will be branching out from dementia specialist Llys Elian Care Home to schools and the new Conwy Culture Centre. One to one visits that are arranged in participant’s homes are also enabling further reach for those without access to transport. Across the rural majority of the county, access to services was ranked as some of the worst in Wales (WIMD, 2019), and so Reading Friends is a lifeline for those most at risk of social isolation.
Reading Friends Swansea is extending to Morriston and Neath Port Talbot Hospitals, following a successful first year in wards 3, 6 and 7 at Singleton Hospital, working in partnership with Swansea University’s Student Volunteering arm, Discovery and the hospital Volunteer programme. Life on the wards can be a busy, but lonely place, and so Reading Friends has been essential in supporting patients to “come out of their shell and have a conversation that isn’t about medicine”, according to a staff nurse on Ward 7.
Since August and September 2019, Aura Libraries in Flintshire and Cardiff Libraries have started Reading Friends projects in their respective local authorities. Aura Libraries are open in Broughton, Buckley, Connah’s Quay, Deeside, Flint, Holywell & Mold, with a mobile library servicing the rest of the county. They are currently looking to integrate the Reading Friends programme into their volunteer offer. Cardiff Libraries consists of 19 Libraries and Community Hubs across the city, and following training of a number of officers, they are looking forward to starting soon.
The Reading Friends project sits within Literature Wales’ Participation strategic pillar, and within that aims to target people with disabilities or long term illnesses (both mental and physical). Literature Wales is committed to utilising creative reading as a contributor to positive physical and mental health. To read the research behind the claims, Demos published their commissioned report ‘A Society of Readers’ in October 2018, which can be found here.