Visit your library: it’s good for your health

The Reading Agency’s recent research shows that reading  connects people socially, builds skills and confidence alongside empathy and understanding, supports health literacy, boosts relaxation and helps people to understand and manage common mental health conditions such as depression [1]. Reading can be the key to a healthier and happier life; people with poor literacy are more likely to have poorer health than those who read well and often [2].

Libraries are the perfect place for people of all ages and backgrounds to access these opportunities. Sitting at the heart of its local community, the public library provides a vast menu of therapeutic reading opportunities, channelled through reading for pleasure and information programmes such as the massive Summer Reading Challenge for children as well as accredited reading and health schemes such as Reading Well Books on Prescription. All supported by wide range of social and recreational activities such as reading groups for all ages, author events and festivals, support groups, reminiscence activities and volunteering opportunities.

Libraries’ health work around Reading Well Books on Prescription has been a massive success story. The scheme has really helped people to manage their mental health through recommended reading available on the open shelves of English public libraries.  There’s a booklist for common mental health conditions already in libraries as well as one for people with dementia, caring for someone with the condition or worried about their memories.  A new scheme supporting young people’s mental health will available in the spring.

There’s no doubt Reading Well Books on Prescription is plugging a gap. It’s only two years old and it’s already reached nearly half a million people, doubling the loans of titles featured on the mental health scheme and tripling those on the dementia list. There have also been proven health benefits: 90% of people surveyed said their book  had helped them understand their condition better, 85% said that it had made them feel more confident about managing symptoms and 55% felt symptoms had reduced.

And it’s to be trusted. Reading Well Books on Prescription is delivered by national charity The Reading Agency working with the Society of Chief Librarians, local library services, local health partners and national health bodies such as the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Nursing, the British Psychological Society, the Alzheimer’s Society and  NHS England’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme. It’s funded by Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust.

So pop into your local library and borrow a book. It’s good for your health!


  1. Literature Review: The Impact of Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment, BO Consulting, 2015
  2. OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD, 2013 and Literacy, Numeracy and Disadvantage among Older Adults in England, Jenkins et al, 2011

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