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#WeAreTogether: Activity Books Helping Hospital Patients And Children Cope With Lockdown

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Hospital patients and children are benefiting from workbooks designed to keep minds active and distract from anxiety and boredom during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Researchers from the Centre for Health Humanities at the University of Reading worked with medical colleagues and patients at the Royal Berkshire Hospital to create the Writers’ Block workbook, an activity booklet that encourages users to get creative by doodling and writing.


The booklets were originally aimed at adult patients with complex conditions, but have also proven to be effective indoor activities for residents of prisons across the UK, as well as children being homeschooled during the COVID-19 pandemic.


They have been taken up by the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Peterborough Hospital, the Royal United Hospitals Bath, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, and HMPs Bristol, Guy’s Marsh and Erlestoke.

Professor Andrew Mangham, English Literature lecturer and Co-Director of the Centre for Health Humanities at the University of Reading, said: “During these difficult times, activities to distract from worries or pass the time are important for so many, particularly those in hospital or suddenly lacking the structure of school or normal day-to-day life.


“The workbooks are based on our research that shows being creative and keeping our minds and hands active is hugely beneficial when other activities are taken away. It is also a wonderful opportunity for the public to see rare materials in the University’s archives in a fun way.”


The workbooks are based on the concept of a ‘resilience pack’, often used in writing therapy groups, and were rapidly produced by Professor Mangham and colleague Dr Katherine Mattacks after the COVID-19 outbreak began in the UK.


The booklets contain excerpts from rare books and documents dating back hundreds of years, all held in the University of Reading’s Special Collections. These include 18th century sketches of creatures to complete, images from the first ever microscope books and creative writing prompts based on wildlife drawings.

The booklets are an extension of a joint project between the University of Reading and the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust, called Stories of Ageing. This uses art and stories to support patients in the Elderly Care Ward at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

It trialled the use of artefacts, documents and records from the University’s archives and museums in helping patients with long-term and complex conditions to structure their day, keep their minds active, and pass the time between treatments.

Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Trust

This work was funded by a grant from the Joint Academic Board, which supports research between the University and the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Trust.

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