Happy talkie talkie

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s library service is looking for people who may be interested in a new and exciting initiative that has just been launched. It’s designed to help overcome feelings of isolation and loneliness by bringing people together to celebrate a love of reading.

Reading Friends is an opportunity to meet new people virtually or by phone to talk about books, magazines or any reading material and aims to support wellbeing and mental health during the Covid pandemic.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s library service is looking for both befrienders and participants to socialise remotely, meet like-minded others and have fun talking about reading.

Enthusiastic volunteers are needed to become one-to-one befrienders, who would be put in touch with a participant by the library service to start a conversation about reading. People can volunteer as much or as little time as they can, with no experience required – just a love of conversation.

The initiative equally welcomes people who wish to connect with a befriender to talk about something they have read or listened to and have enjoyed.

The Reading Friends scheme is part of the Read, Talk, Share campaign launched this month by national charity the Reading Agency. The campaign aims to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through the power of reading during the Covid pandemic.

Councillor Paul Crossley, cabinet member for Community Services, said: “It’s so important that we support people’s mental health and wellbeing during lockdown and as we recover from the impact of the pandemic. The Reading Friends project is an innovative way of connecting like-minded people to explore their love of books. It will help people who may not have seen their loved ones for some time to feel less lonely, as well as being rewarding for the befriender to make a difference to someone’s life.

“Being part of the project will be fun for anyone who enjoys talking about reading. If this sounds like you, please come forward to volunteer as a befriender or to take part.”

The library service will match befrienders and participants together in an initial meeting online or by phone to get them started, encouraging them to make their meeting a regular event.

Resident Gill Wallace has already come forward to volunteer to become a befriender. She explained: “I live alone and am unable to do paid work as I have a disability. I am passionate about reading which is why I assist primary school children to read in normal circumstances. I also support people with mental health conditions. I like to meet people, albeit over the phone, and I am a good listener.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer as a befriender or to become a participant should email Reading_Friends@bathnes.gov.uk or call 01225 394041.

The service won £7,500 funding from the Reading Agency to launch Reading Friends in Bath and North East Somerset. The charity’s national Read, Talk, Share initiative is funded by a £3.5 million award from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).

Find out more about the council’s library and information services