for Arts
& Culture
Literature | National Scheme

Reading WellThe Reading Agency

The Reading Agency is a national charity that tackles life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. The charity works closely with their partners, particularly public libraries, to develop, co-produce and deliver tailored programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds, to help deliver their vision for a world where everyone is reading their way to a better life.

Reading Well

Reading Well, The Reading Agency

Target Beneficiaries

The Reading Agency

The Reading Agency’s UK-wide reading programmes reach hugely diverse groups of people, from children as young as four to adults.

In 2020-21, The Reading Agency reached over 1.9 million people across the UK, including more than 800,000 children and over 1 million adults and young people.

Reading Well

Reading Well is targeted at specific areas of health and wellbeing and providing support for children and families, young people and adults. The lists are made as accessible as possible with something for everyone including less confident readers.


Reading Well

Health and social care professionals, link workers, teachers and other adults offering support can use the scheme to recommend helpful reading. The scheme can also be used on a self-referral basis. The books are available on the open shelves of the local public library for anyone to borrow.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has funded a universal roll-out of the Reading Well reading lists to support mental health to every library service across England. Welsh Government have funded every library authority in Wales to deliver the scheme bilingually in Welsh and English.

Many of the Reading Well titles are available to borrow as e-books and audiobooks. Individuals can visit a local library website to find out how to join the library and access books electronically.

All Reading Well booklists are co-produced with people with lived experience, including family and carers. Their co-creation model has been developed to ensure that the programme meets the needs of the people who will use them.

Reading Well follows clinical guidelines for the treatment and support of mental health and wellbeing. Specific self-help interventions are included when recommended within National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.



Since 2013 2.6 million Reading Well books have been borrowed from libraries.




There is enormous need for quality-assured health information, advice and stories to support people to manage their health and wellbeing. Evaluation has shown that bibliotherapy is cost effective, elicits a positive response from people, improves self-management and results in better person – doctor relationships. Reading Well collections can support people with quality-assured, evidence-based resources outside of clinical settings, or while they await treatment.

There is growing evidence to suggest that the Books on Prescription model is an effective method of delivering self -help, early intervention and preventative support. The results of several studies have demonstrated therapeutic effects, and cost efficiencies.

There is a huge evidence base around the value of reading to support health and wellbeing. Also reading correlates with a better ability to understand health information. Public libraries play an important role in providing health and wellbeing support. The Public Library Health Offer, developed by Libraries Connected in partnership with The Reading Agency, is a strategy which expresses the public library contribution to the positive health and wellbeing of local communities.

Reading Well full impact evidence base


The scheme is delivered by The Reading Agency working in partnership with Libraries Connected, with funding from Arts Council England.