STIRLING Council has teamed up with the Scottish Book Trust to pilot a pioneering national reading initiative to bring communities closer together.

The first page of the Reading Friends project was written this month following its launch at St Ninians Library.

The innovative befriending programme has the goal of matching volunteers to people who feel isolated, such as the elderly and vulnerable, and bringing them closer together through reading.

Work is currently underway to expand the first partnerships in care homes across the area, with residents at the Fairview Care Home among the first to benefit, thanks to kind volunteers from Bannockburn High School.

The school has provided 10 pupils who will link up with the home on a weekly basis to read, chat, listen and learn with the residents, with sessions also taking place at St Ninians Library.

Councillor Chris Kane, convenor of Stirling Council’s Community Planning and Regeneration committee said: “This is a multi-layered approach to bringing communities and generations closer together and we are extremely proud for Stirling Council to host the pilot.

“This is more than just a reading project and we believe the connections the volunteers can make through books can do a lot to alleviate loneliness and improve well-being by bringing people together, bridging the gap between generations and working towards removing the feeling of loneliness and isolation that some people live with.”

Vice convenor Councillor Maureen Bennison added: “Reading is a great way to bridge the gap between ages. It keeps the mind active, sparks the imagination and can help educate and entertain.

“Well done to all the pupils at Bannockburn who have stepped forward and we are very happy to have Stirling Council’s libraries support this initiative.”

The project works in collaboration with the Reading Agency and the Scottish Book Trust and will see students from Bannockburn, accompanied by school staff, meet with Fairview residents either at the care home or St Ninians Library once a week.

Koren Calder, Reader Development Programme Manager at the Scottish Book Trust said: “We are delighted that Stirling Library Services are taking part in the pilot phase of the Reading Friend’s project.

“The opportunity for pupils to read together with residents from the local care home at St Ninians Library is a lovely example of the way this project is evolving.”