“The book’s a conversation starter” – a realist exploration of the salutogenic potential of reading for pleasure

Mihirini Sirisena*, Monique Lhussier, Eileen Kaner, Angela Wearn, Joanne Gray, Rebecca James, Sam Redgate

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reading for Wellbeing (RfW) is a pilot initiative, aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing through supporting access and increasing opportunities to read for pleasure. RfW was implemented across six North East local authorities in England and employed Community Reading Workers to support access to books and reading for targeted populations. The current study used realist methodology to understand context, potential mechanisms of action, acceptability, and reported outcomes. Data generation and analysis were conducted iteratively, using focus groups, interviews and observations.
The analysis of the collated data highlighted that a positive attitude towards reading and a desire for social connections were significant motivators for engagement with RfW. This paper postulates eight programme theories relating to that context, which describe key mechanisms within RfW linked to engagement with reading, wellbeing, connections and practice. The paper concludes previous notions of positivity associated with reading for pleasure enable the participants to experience RfW as a positive social encounter, which enhances multiple resistance resources such as increased sense of self-efficacy and connectedness that could impact upon participants’ sense of wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical Humanities
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Mar 2024

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