A £2.1m grant has been awarded by the Big Lottery Fund to a reading friends project for older people.
The Reading Friends project, led by The Reading Agency, will use a new befriending model and work with partners to provide vulnerable older people at risk of isolation with opportunities to engage in shared reading activities.
Reading Friends will use people from the local community, or partner organisations, who through resources supplied by The Reading Agency, will provide reading activities such as one-to-one and group social reading, book chats, themed and reader curated book lists, book gifting and author events.
The project aims to provide a social network that connects older people with friends, family and wider community networks through reading to help keep them mentally active, culturally engaged and socially connected.
The project will be delivered with the support of the Society of Chief Librarians and a range of partner organisations in England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, including charities, social enterprises and community activism organisations.
Joe Ferns, UK knowledge and portfolio director at the Big Lottery Fund said:
“Reading, whether one-to-one or in a group, can have a positive impact and improve the quality of life for older people and those living with dementia. This project puts people in charge of their lives and builds on the passion of volunteers in their local communities. It will also give people the chance to broaden their horizons and create lasting friendships.”
The Reading Agency was previously awarded £50,000 by the Big Lottery Fund in July 2015 to research and develop proposals for the new reading scheme, where the project tested different incentives and approaches to get and keep older people reading. It will start planning and development work in the autumn for the UK pilot phase of the project, planned for July next year. The project will be initially delivered in England, Scotland and Wales.
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