Tag Archives: Reading Well

Dementia Awareness Week 2017


Hot on the winged heels of Mental Health Awareness week (thank you to all colleagues and partners who helped get that information out there) we are promoting Dementia Awareness Week (14 to 21 May 2017), an Alzheimer’s Society initiative, in our libraries.  There are so many myths around Dementia and that is why we recommend the Reading Well books on prescription dementia list.

Dementia display QP Library

Book display at Queen’s Park Library

This is a varied carefully chosen collection consisting of evidenced and researched information books, alongside fascinating and moving personal histories. It also includes a children’s picture book to help younger readers understand beloved members of their families who have been diagnosed with one of 100 conditions that come under the umbrella of Dementia.  Check out the craft book for creative ways of engaging those living well with Dementia.  It is a helpful and uplifting collection.

DF logo

The second initiative I want tell you about is the Dementia Friends sessions happening this week which are run by a trained Dementia champion. They are relaxed and informative sessions that engage us in such a way that unhelpful fears and misinformation around the subject can be openly discussed and real facts and practical tips on creating Dementia friendly services and how to reach out and support those living well with Dementia come to light.

Details of the Dementia Friends sessions this week:

These sessions are open to everyone and I urge you to recommend them or even come along yourself.

Kate Gielgud
Health Information Co-ordinator


Shelf help for teens

Fighting invisible tigers by Earl HippDuring the month of April people across London have been reading the same book about riot and civil unrest as part of Cityread London. The story, called Ten Days by Gillian Slovo, is based on events when bad stuff happened, someone died and people just boiled over – they couldn’t take any more.

Sometimes life gets confusing and that’s when people through the ages have turned to books. Writing them, reading them – Shakespeare had a lot to get out of his system, and he did it so well that we remember him 400 years later!

Here in libraries we’ve a got a brand new collection of books for young people between the ages of 13 and 18. The collection – called Shelf Help – was launched last week and they’re already flying off the shelves.

Shelf Help - Reading Well for Young People books

There are books about depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self harm, living with autism and more. They are really helpful and some are funny too – you’ve got to see the funny side sometimes. Some of the books are a bit like guides or reference books and some are fiction but based on real people and real lives. They’ve been chosen by young people with experience of mental health issues, and you can find them in your local library, browse the collection online or even have them recommended to you by your doctor.

No one can read minds, and teen life is full of tricky times, that’s why Shelf Help is there for you in libraries now.


We can help

Did you know that using a public library is good for your mental health?

Books on Prescription at Victoria LibraryRecent research done for Arts Council England found that

“Library usage is associated with higher life satisfaction, higher happiness and a higher sense of purpose in life… These results suggest that libraries generally have an important role in library users’ quality of life and wellbeing.”

– The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries, 2015

Today is World Mental Health Day so we’re taking the opportunity to talk about some of the support that Westminster Libraries can offer to maintain and improve your and your family’s mental health.

If you visit your local library today, you are likely to see a display entitledBooks on Prescription – a selection of self-help books put together by health professionals that give guidance on managing and, in some cases, recovering from mild to moderate mental wellbeing issues. These books are available for a longer-than-usual loan period, and figures released today suggest that it’s a positive and useful resource (Book-based therapy scheme is a success) – so successful in fact that Korean TV visited Victoria Library this week to talk to the Reading Agency and our very own librarian Nick about taking Books on Prescription to Korea!

You can browse the selection for yourself on the library catalogue:

Browse the 'Books on Prescription' selection

Browse the ‘Books on Prescription’ selection

From the same page you can also browse a great selection of Mood Boosting Books – uplifting titles including novels, poetry and non-fiction. The books are recommended by readers and reading groups around the country.

Browse the selection of Mood Boosting Books

Browse the selection of Mood Boosting Books

You are probably aware of the wide range of health-related events that are held regularly in Westminster Libraries – from free blood pressure checks to Q & A sessions about different conditions, from advice on healthy eating to fun dental health sessions for children. But as the report at the top of the post indicates, it’s not just attending health-related events that can have an impact on your mental health. Attending any library events (and we have a LOT!) can improve feelings of wellbeing. In fact, there is also evidence that improved literacy is linked to good health, so the Health Information Project is working closely with children’s Chatterbooks reading groups and other groups within libraries to support reading as a whole.

Have you heard about the Shared Reading Groups? We have a wide range of reading groups that you can join, from the traditional ‘read a book a month and discuss it’ style to groups focusing on comics or crime fiction. Shared reading groups have a slightly different style – there’s no set book, you don’t need to read it before you attend – just come along and listen to others read aloud, discuss (if you want) and enjoy the books (poetry, plays, novels), the company and the free tea and coffee!

We can help. Libraries are a great source of information, enjoyment, social interaction or space just to read and learn. Come in and spend some time, join in with an event or group, find a great book to read for escape or to find support with the stresses of life. These links may also help:


Reading Well in Westminster

Reading Well logoFollowing the Reading Agency launch of the Reading Well Books on Prescription Dementia Collection on Monday 26 January, libraries across the three boroughs gave community and health partners, as well as members of the public, the chance to find out about our Reading Well initiatives, with collection launches at five libraries, starting with Pimlico Library on 30 January.

The Carers’ Network, BME Forum, Migrants Resource Centre, Breathe Easy Support group, and other community and health partners came to Pimlico library for tea and scones to hear about Reading Well in libraries.

Diane Sherlock at the Pimlico Library launch of Reading Well Books on Prescription - Dementia Collection

Diane Sherlock at the Pimlico Library launch of Reading Well Books on Prescription – Dementia Collection

They also listened to a poetry reading by Diane Sherlock, author of ‘Come into the Garden’ – a collection of poems written when caring for her mother who was living with vascular dementia after a stroke. Copies of ‘Come into the Garden’ are available in all libraries in the three boroughs and are being used in our ‘read aloud’ bibliotherapy groups.

Remembering Together artefacts at Paddington LibraryKathryn Gilfoy, from Westminster Arts, brought the display of artefacts created by artists and individuals living with Dementia – as shown in our recent ‘Remembering Together’ post.

There followed launches at North Kensington and Brompton libraries (read more on the RBKC Libraries blog) and at Hammersmith and Fulham libraries (read more on LBHF Libraries). Five different launches in different libraries in the three boroughs, only made possible by joint working with library staff and health and community partners.

Very warm thanks to Sara, Ronnie and Luigi at Pimlico and all colleagues!  Thanks to Diane Sherlock and Nell Dunn who donated their time and to Kathryn and Freya from Westminster Arts. Thanks to the Stroke Association who donate their time and resources to help prevent vascular dementia by preventing stroke.

Libraries are doing their bit for Dementia.  If you would like to join the Dementia Alliance, contact Helen.ODonovan@alzheimers.org.uk.


Reading Well: Books on Prescription

Reading Well: Books on PrescriptionThe Westminster Libraries launch of the Reading Agency ‘Books on Prescription’ scheme took place at Church Street Library yesterday,  cheered on its way with blue sky, sunshine and matching yellow and blue helium balloons!

Books on Prescription launched nationally yesterday evening. It is part of the Reading Agency Reading Well offer made to libraries in partnership with Society of Chief Librarians and Department of Health.

Sylwia and Vivienne at the Books on Prescription launch, Church Street Library, June 2013The launch was attended by over fourteen health partner and community organisations. The majority had information stalls in the Church Street Library community space; the NHS health Improvement team and the IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) teams welcomed visitors on the ground floor and directed them to the free massage sessions, information stalls and sandwiches and fruit kebabs.

Rachel at the Books on Prescription launch, Church Street Library June 2013The event was attended by representatives of Patient Participation groups, Councillor Louise Hyams, Councillor Barbara Grahame, Chris Lloyd (Community Development Manager Triborough Libraries) and Anna Waterman, the Public Health manager responsible for commissioning the Health Information Project in Westminster Libraries. Vic Stewart, manager of Church Street Library, introduced the speakers.

Rachel Barratt, our Bookstart Co-ordinator, shared a stall with the Kickstart team (early years nutrition and development) and Danielle from Open Age and Rachel from the Penfold Hub brought along information for over 50s.

Baffour from Mind and Chris from Triborough Libraries at the Books on Prescription launch in Church Street Library, June 2013Mind had a card making stall – see representative Baffour with Chris in front of the BOP display in the foyer of Church Street Library. There were representatives of the BME forum, Migrant’s Resource Centre, Mosaic Trust, the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster memory Service, the Wellbeing Service, CLCH Foundation Trust, Carer’s Network, West London Community Mental Health Team, Westminster Drugs Project, Early Intervention Psychosis Team, Paddington Development Trust…

The event could not have gone so well without the help of four volunteers, very appropriate in this week!  Elizabeth, Paola and Hafida are members of the Queen’s Park, Paddington and Church Street Book Groups and they were joined by Iman who has helped at several health information events in the past.

Paola at the Books on Prescription launch, Church Street Library, June 2013Huge thanks go to the staff at Church Street Library, especially to Alison the librarian, who made the idea for the display into a reality!

Books on Prescription is just one part of how libraries can contribute to Public Health – we also have regular health events and lots of information.

There are launch events in our partner boroughs today and next week: the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s launch is this afternoon (5 June) at Brompton Library, from 2.00-4.00pm; the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham launch is at Shepherds Bush Library on 12 June, 12.30-2.30pm.


Why Libraries are Good for your Health!

This spring, libraries have proved that they are good for your health in a number of ways. Here are just a few:

The Reader, by Bernard SchlinkApril was Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – not something anyone really wants to dwell on if they are honest! We would much rather think about health in terms of ‘wellbeing’, with mental pictures of self and loved ones power walking in the park – sparkling eyes, glowing skin, full of vitality. That is actually a good place to start and events at Marylebone, Charing Cross and Maida Vale libraries during the month encouraged us to get it  right with advice on the basics of healthy eating and exercise for good digestion – which is of course a step in the right direction for preventing bowel cancer.

Another positive thought around this very common cancer is that, if caught early, the recovery rates are good. With this in mind, Dave from Bowel Cancer UK came along to Church Street Library for the monthly ‘Well Wednesday’ slot to inform us on the signs and signals of the disease and the importance of getting them checked out.

The Stroke Association came along to Pimlico Library and gave 28 people free blood pressure checks; psychotherapists and members of the Wellbeing team based in Vauxhall Bridge Road also visited Pimlico and told us about their free six week courses on relaxation, sleep and dealing with anxiety. This brings to mind Books on Prescription – but more about that in a moment.

Speaking to a Public Health Manager last week he informed me that there is evidence that reading is good for your health. Among other things, reading to children and taking them to libraries as toddlers has an impact on a child’s readiness for school and their reading level at age 11.  This has a knock-on effect on people’s socio-economic status as adults – which is closely linked to health.

Cityread London - get involvedWe have been doing as much sharing of books as possible recently. It wasn’t hard –  due to Cityread London we were able to give copies of A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks to health partners who seemed genuinely pleased with their gifts. World Book Night was another occasion to give away books – we had events at Paddington and Westminster Reference libraries to do just that. Copies of The Reader by Bernard Schlink were donated to members of the public as well as NHS staff and members of bibliotherapy reading groups. “Is it free?” I was asked – “YES!”  I replied.

This brings me to the very exciting upcoming nationwide relaunch of the Books on Prescription sets.  These have been available in libraries for some time but the NHS, the Reading Agency and local authorities have been putting their heads together to revitalise this great initiative.

Reading Well: Books on Prescription‘Books on Prescription’ in its new form is a set of 30 books. Most are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) workbooks and they can be ‘prescribed’ by a health professional or counsellor to help individuals manage their emotional and mental health. They will be available very soon from all Triborough libraries.  These books are marked with a Books on Prescription sticker and can be found in the ‘Body’ section.  They have a loan period of six rather than three weeks and can, of course, be renewed.

We will have an official launch of the scheme at Church Street Library on Tuesday 4 June. Look out too for the Kensington and Chelsea launch at Brompton Library and the Hammersmith & Fulham launch at Shepherd’s Bush Library.

I’m itching to tell you about Mood Boosting Books… however, I will leave that for the next instalment of ‘Why Libraries are Good for your Health’.