Promoting dementia-friendly libraries: Setting up book groups to encourage reading and community inclusiveness for people living with dementia

The benefits of reading for the general population, and the benefits of reading in reducing the incidence
of dementia, have been the subject of research. However, there has been very little research
done on the benefits of reading appropriate works for those living with dementia. This discussion paper
outlines the experience of one community in New Zealand, Nelson, in setting up and running a dementia-
friendly book group in the public library, and describes the benefits and limitations of this project.
A particular set of classical texts was used for these book groups. These were selected and adapted as
a result of an earlier feasibility study on the value of book groups for people living with dementia. The
feasibility study (Rimkeit & Claridge, 2017) indicated that participants enjoyed the book groups, but
preferred adaptations where the original texts were shortened, but the original lexis and syntax were
retained.
Both the Nelson Public Libraries experience and the feasibility study suggest the book group reading,
whether in libraries or residential care facilities, can be enjoyable for people living with dementia,
and it is hoped that other libraries in New Zealand will join the discussion on how best to make public
libraries dementia-friendly, to vitally support this group of citizens to enjoy a good read.
This paper invites librarians and appropriate academics to become involved in a multicentre study of
dementia-friendly book groups in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the US, with an international
consortium of universities now interested, using quantitative and qualitative research to investigate
the benefits of reading for those living with dementia.