A new Scotland-wide reading initiative has been announced on World Book Day to inspire and encourage people to read every day to boost their mental health and wellbeing.
A national reading moment, called ‘Keep the Heid and Read!’ will take place on Wednesday 11 May, during Mental Health Week 2022. Readers of all ages and abilities are encouraged to pledge to read for just six minutes on 11 May – and they can read anything, from books and magazines to comics, graphic novels and blogs.
An online totaliser to count the overall reading time pledged by the nation will be launched on 11th April where both individuals and groups such as schools can sign up to get involved at www.keeptheheid.scot. People can also follow the progress of Keep the Heid and Read using #keeptheheid on social media.
The reading campaign is led by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and Scotland’s 32 public library services.
The idea was inspired by the post-lockdown plea for public libraries to reopen and the growing recognition that libraries play a valuable role in supporting mental health and wellbeing by connecting communities.
It is taking place during Mental Health Week because of the known mental and emotional health benefits of reading. Research shows that reading for just six minutes a day can reduce stress by 68 per cent. Establishing a regular reading habit has the biggest impact on mental health and wellbeing.
Pamela Tulloch, chief executive at SLIC said: “The reading moment came about from an awareness that people have missed their libraries during the pandemic, coupled with the joy and benefits people gain from reading. It is the most popular cultural activity people undertake and, during the COVID-19 lockdown, reading was the nation’s most popular pastime.
“We want everyone to get involved on 11 May by pledging to read for six minutes. It is a great way for people to reconnect with their local libraries, which offer an abundance of free reading material and library staff can make recommendations based on reading ability and interests. Getting lost in a good book is a highly effective stress reliever and reading fiction, in particular, can inspire creativity and boost emotional intelligence, not to mention improve overall levels of literacy.”
Chris O’Sullivan, Head of Communications and Fundraising at Mental Health Foundation in Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to support ‘Keep the Heid and Read’. Local libraries are a fantastic source of support in our communities and we hope that every person in Scotland has, and continues to have, access to the world of books, social connection and services they offer.
"We know that reading has many benefits for our mental health; it can bring us joy, help us to relax and it can help alleviate the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. We encourage everyone to take part in the six minute reading event during mental health week and develop a reading habit.”
Culture Minister Neil Gray added: “Reading books for pleasure can have a huge impact on our wellbeing so I’m delighted to support this Scotland-wide reading initiative. Our libraries have a vital role to play in reconnecting communities and promoting health and wellbeing as we recover from the pandemic.
“I’ll be pledging my six minutes of reading on 11 May and would encourage everyone else to pick up a book to do the same to support their local libraries.”