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Reading for Wellbeing

Reading can help to make us feel better about ourselves. Whether it’s escape or inspiration, relaxation or learning, reading takes us out of ourselves and into another world.

Training for Community Reading Workers

Opening the Book was commissioned by crime writer Ann Cleeves to create induction training for Community Reading Workers starting an entirely new role in the Reading for Wellbeing project in the North-East.

Ann is the inspiration behind the project which is now supported by the NHS and local authorities.  Her vision of the role of reading in wellbeing starts from her own personal experience. As she says,  “Stories can be healing. If we’re drowning in chaotic thoughts of our own, to step inside someone else’s head, just for a while, is a kind of freedom.”

You may not know that Ann once worked as Reader-in-Residence in Kirklees Libraries, and then in prisons as part of our Inside Books project.  She was also a freelance trainer for Opening the Book, running workshops on Putting Readers First for library staff all over the UK. So it was a rediscovery of shared values when Ann commissioned us to create bespoke training to support the newly-appointed workers in this groundbreaking project.

This is one of the most challenging projects we have undertaken. How best to prepare and support workers to go out and engage people in reading in areas where high levels of deprivation mean those people are facing multiple problems? What skills, confidence, knowledge and networking are needed to do this? The first 9 workers tested everything and gave such helpful feedback, and a completely new version of the course was launched in 2024. Fifteen new workers are now taking this new course, some based in libraries and some based in other community settings. The course could be relevant to other library staff with a wellbeing focus or to those making connections with Social Prescribing Link Workers – get in touch if you’d like to know more.

You can read more about this valuable project here

Wellbeing Pods in Libraries and Hubs

Andrea Ellison, then Chief Librarian of Leeds, is a born networker. At a city-wide event for everyone involved in Early Years support, she heard of the problems of maternity services finding space to see mothers as there was not enough room in GP surgeries.

Knowing Health and Wellbeing was a key priority for the Council, she worked with Susan Murray, Head of Customer Contact, to explore the possibility of using spaces within the city’s network of Community Hubs and Libraries.

Opening the Book was already contracted to design and supply the interiors for the Hub refurbishment programme, so Rachel Van Riel was involved in discussions at an early stage. How could we create a comfortable space, which maximises the friendly appeal of the library setting, while also delivering the clinical requirements and the need for privacy? Eloise Pearson, Senior Programme Manager with the NHS, and Julie Holmes, Matron for Community Midwifery, advised on all equipment – the breakthrough was a mobile sink that does not require a water supply. Olive Fowler, Design Manager at Opening the Book, found furniture and came up with a colour palette which feels non-institutional; our office filled up with multiple equipment items which we then delivered and installed all over Leeds. And yes, of course we included a bookcase! Face-out shelves to be stocked not just with health books but with books to relax and picturebooks for toddlers.

This was a project where big bureaucracies worked imaginatively and creatively together to create something new in the gaps between existing provision. It has been a fantastic success with the Pods now used by midwives, perinatal, smoking cessation, dieticians and mental wellbeing services. The concept is expanding to two Leisure Centres later in 2024.