Susan Hill has already flagged it up but I'm going to follow because there was a piece by Blake Morrison in The Guardian Review this morning which gladdened my heart, Are books the new Prozac? The Reading Cure.
The papers arrived courtesy of Bookhound, along with a pot of tea and off they all went out beating the bounds for the day.There is a certain joy to an empty house when you know it will be filled again about seven hours later and with thanks to Mary Azarian , woodcut artist extraordinaire, who kindly gave permission for me to use this picture occasionally.
One of the delicate little cats arrived and curled up as always (Rocky not great at jumping on beds) and I headed straight for the Guardian Review and cheered.
When you love reading and realise how much it adds to your life you can get quite evangelical about it. Preaching to the converted here but I can't tell you how frustrating it is to work in an environment like the NHS and watch people struggling with all manner of mental and physical illness and wonder if they read.
Or have they been offered some suggestions for reading?
Has anyone offered to help them with those choices? If you've been signed off work with stress and depression that's a lot of time on your hands to fill inbetween appointments with the practice counsellor.
Might a reading group help?
Not self-help manuals about eating tofu and how to get the best out of Choose and Book (don't get me started on what that has cost the NHS) and what to ask at your consultant's appointment, but fiction, poetry, letters, biographies, all sitting there waiting to be explored for the good.
I've long held a simplistic, intuitive feeling that the anti-depressant prescribing budget could be substantially reduced in general practice if surgeries ran reading groups and referred patients to them.
There is a skill to running a group of any description and I think it's one of the things health visitors actually do well, though far less these days because...well let's not go there.Making everyone feel included, at ease and valued is a pre-requisite skill that goes hand in hand with our ability to relate non-judgementally to people right across the social spectrum.We have walked up enough garden paths or climbed flights of stairs in blocks of flats and knocked on enough doors down the years to have learnt about that.
But there's the problem, simplistic, intuitive feeling no good these days, has to be evidence-based before we even think about it.
I corresponded with Jane Davis some time ago after she wrote extensively about her work in this sphere in The Reader magazine and I shared my thoughts on bibliotherapy here. Jane has initiated a brilliant scheme in and around Merseyside and it would seem the evidence is starting to gather. We can but hope that people in high places listen and it does all fit neatly into current campaigns for libraries along with the realization that children aren't the only ones who need some encouragement and confidence building around reading and how it can be used as a lifelong tool.
Congratulations to Jane for all her hard work and for having the determination to bang on all those closed doors.