Reading Well Books on Prescription

Reading Well Books on Prescription, The Reading Agency and The Society of Chief Librarians

Reading Well Books on Prescription helps people manage their health and wellbeing through recommending helpful reading. The programme curates booklists of quality-assured titles, recommended and endorsed by health experts and people with lived experience of the conditions covered.  

The books can be recommended by a health professional or users can self-refer, and titles are available to borrow for free from public libraries in England.  

The scheme is delivered through 97% of English public library authorities as a key part of the Society of Chief Librarians Universal Health Offer and sits within a wide range of other activities and promotions available through libraries to support health and wellbeing.  

Book lists 
There are currently four Reading Well book lists. They are:  

Good Practice
Reading Well book lists are development through a thorough book selection process with the involvement of a wide range of partners from the library and health sectors.  

The book selection panel is made up of health experts representing professional health bodies, specialist charities, people with lived experience and representatives from the library sector. The panel develops a book selection protocol and a book selection framework which are then used to decide which titles will be included on the final list.  

Key elements of book selection, design of materials, messaging and marketing are co-produced with people with lived experience of the conditions included for each list. The Reading Agency has worked organisations including the Alzheimer’s Society, YoungMinds and the Coalition for Collaborative Care.  

Evidence base
There is an evidence base around the value of reading to support health and wellbeing, as well as the value of libraries as a non-stigmatised space that is both welcoming and empowering for people with mental health problems.  

Reading Well Books on Prescription is developed according to NICE clinical guidelines with the involvement of health experts from our wide range of health partners.  

See the full evidence base around Reading Well Books on Prescription  

The Reading Well programme is evaluated each year to ensure that it continues to deliver positive outcomes. Health professionals, library staff and users are surveyed on their experiences of the programme, as well as information on reach being calculated through book loans and book sales data. To date, The Reading Well programme has reached over 635,000 users. 

Users of the lists have reported:

  • an increase in their wellbeing and their ability to manage their symptoms after using the scheme
  • 96% of users of the common mental health conditions list found the scheme helpful or very helpful
  • 90% felt they were better able to understand their conditions. Because of this
      • 81% felt more confident managing their symptoms
      • 52% felt that their symptoms actually improved as a result of reading a book on the list