In today’s Guardian Blake Morrison writes about Jane Davis’s Get Into Reading initiative, which aims to promote reading as a therapeutic activity with real health benefits: “Jane Davis would like the scheme she’s created on a Merseyside to be adopted throughout the country. With 2008 designated the Year of Reading, and Liverpool the 2008 European Capital of Culture, it’s an opportune moment.”
The feature covers a lot of ground but concludes that while the scientific evidence for ‘bibliotherapy’ is inconclusive, books can reach out and touch in ways that are impossible traditional medicine. On a pragmatic basis at least, reading often seems to help:
These reading groups aren’t just about helping people feel less isolated or building their self-esteem. Nor are they merely a pretext, in an area of high unemployment, for giving the experience of working as a unit. More ambitiously, they’re an experiment in healing, or, to put it less grandiosely, an attempt to see whether reading can alleviate pain or mental distress. For Kate, who has suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis for 30 years, the answer is clear: “Reading pushes the pain away into a place where it no longer seems important. No matter how ill you are, there’s a world inside books which you can enter and explore, and where you focus on something other than your own problems. You get to talk about things that people usually skate over, like ageing or death, and that kind of conversation – with everyone chipping in, so you feel part of something – can be enormously helpful.” Others say the same: “I’ve stopped seeing the doctor since I came here and cut down on my medication”; “being in a group with other women who have what I had, breast cancer, didn’t help me, but talking about books has made a huge difference.”
Here’s the link to the article again.
Read our previous features on reading and health.