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Reading for Wellbeing

Come, and take choice of all my library,

And so beguile thy sorrow.

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus (Act IV, Sc1, 1.34)


The aim of this project is to prevent and reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, isolation, social exclusion and mental health conditions in the lives of those who struggle with these complex issues. We help people during difficult times in their lives to recreate narrative worlds and build intellectual and emotional connections with books and their characters.

This is a fantastic activity for anyone who is interested in reaping the benefits of literature used in a therapeutic context. Reading for Wellbeing explores the endless possibilities of novels, poetry, short stories, plays and self-help books as curative medicine.

Reading aloud is an activity that everyone can take part in. It sharpens the intellect, invigorates the imagination and enlarges the scope of human sympathy. If we all read aloud every day, the world would be a better place – Philip Pullman

The provision and access to counselling in the UK is scant, restricted, inaccessible, often inconvenient – and too expensive. Existing health and social care systems are struggling to cope with the challenges of the multifaceted needs of Sunderland’s ageing population, who are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. Other groups of people are also struggling without much help from local authorities to cope with different forms of mental health disorders.

According to the Office for National Statistics, between financial years of 2014 and 2015, The North East and Yorkshire were the only two English regions with no significant reductions in low levels of wellbeing across any of the personal wellbeing measures compared with the financial year ending 2014

Reading for Wellbeing with a bibliotherapeutic approach uses the relationship that forms between individuals and literature as curative medicine. Increasingly, research is uncovering an intimate connection between reading and wellbeing. The seemingly simple act of being read to brings remarkable health and happiness benefits. Reading/being read to stimulates thought and memory, encourages the sharing of ideas and feelings, hopes and fears. Literature used in a bibliotherapeutic context has enormous healing properties, it enriches our lives.

It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive – James Baldwin

We are passionate believers that good literature has the ability to heal and help address depression, boredom, loneliness, social isolation, stress, anxiety, grief. It can also make ‘a moment matter’ when reading to people living with dementia or those who have partially lost their sight. Literature – words – are powerful tools and can be used to make us feel better by connecting us with the lives and situations of the characters and by using them as a vessel to relate to others how we may be feeling.

Being read to is the beguiling beginning of learning to love reading – it opens the door to absolutely everything and anything we might want to do in life – Joanna Trollope

The project ‘Reading for Wellbeing’ is a form of therapeutic interaction with either fiction and poetry, or non-fiction advisory texts to bring people from different backgrounds and communities together and help them understand and deal with complex wellbeing matters. The project’s aim is to use the relationship that forms between individuals and the content of books as curative medicine, fixing the issues stressed above without chemical intervention. Participants in this project will experience the following outcome: intellectual stimulation, universalisation (recognition that you are not the only one who feels a certain way), personal insight, a growth in self-esteem, self-development, value clarification, energising (via the lightening of the burden of personal problems), the abating of isolation (both through reading about the human condition, and through group acceptance). However, each individual has a different life story, hence the outcome can be experienced in different ways.

I’ve always known that reading aloud was one of the paths to greater happiness in life. It’s rather pleasing to hear of research backing this up convincingly. But reading aloud isn’t medicine to be swallowed to make one feel better. It’s pleasure. Pure pleasure – Stephen Fry

We are happy to facilitate the enrolment of new reading groups every month.

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