READING is a powerful tool that can tackle loneliness and boost mental health.

That’s the message from a new campaign, which is being backed by the district’s libraries service.

Behind the initiative is the Reading Agency, with £3.5 million of funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

The venture will build on the agency’s already-successful Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes.

Bradford Libraries will bring together children, young people and adults to read and share stories.

Adults will meet via Zoom, but there will also be a postal element for people unable to access the project digitally – or who aren’t confident with the technology. Reading materials will be posted out and participants can reply by post or chat over the phone.

People who use the home library service will also be invited to join in.

And Bradford Libraries will run the project with two secondary schools and the service’s reading group for home-educated pupils, to reach young people who have been socially isolated during lockdown.

Each young person will receive a pack with reading materials to use during their group meetings.

Youngsters will meet online initially, with a view to meeting in person eventually.

For all age groups, there will be the chance to have guest authors or poets.

To encourage take-up of the digital scheme, some of the funding will be used to provide tablets that can be borrowed – with, where necessary and feasible, socially-distanced instruction from staff.

The Reading Well programme supports people with their mental health by making books recommended by health experts easily accessible. The Reading Well collection will also be available in all libraries and on the e-book service Borrowbox.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s executive member for healthy people and places, said: “We know how important libraries are to people and the local community – they can offer a real lifeline. And we know that the services our libraries have offered during this pandemic have helped many people.

“We hope that by working with the Reading Agency and with this extra funding, we can offer more support to help reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing.”