Reading Well

Reading WellReading Well is a program developed by The Reading Agency, a British nonprofit with a mission “…to inspire more people to read more, encourage them to share their enjoyment of reading and celebrate the difference that reading makes to all our lives.”

The idea behind Reading Well Books on Prescription is to help you understand and manage your health and well being using self-help reading. It’s endorsed by health professionals and supported by public libraries throughout England. The Reading Well Books on Prescription for Dementia recommends books you might find helpful if you have dementia, are caring for someone with dementia or would simply like to learn more about it. There are four reading lists:

Reading Well also offers reading lists of Mood Boosting Books that feature uplifting titles, including novels, poetry and non-fiction for all ages. Check it out.


Christmas gift books for people with dementia

Books for ChristmasAt this time of year people are often searching for gift ideas for loved ones with dementia. They already have all the clothes they need. And they aren’t able to pursue hobbies and other activities they used to enjoy. Here are some suggestions for gift books for people with dementia:

  • A coffee table book on a topic that interests them.
  • Adult coloring book.
  • A book of simple poetry with illustrations.
  • Memory book of special photos.
  • A book of short-short stories.

Be sure to wrap it. Sometimes it’s the simple pleasure that comes from opening a gift that counts the most.

Finding bargain books for seniors

Friends of the library book saleIf you’re looking for bargain books, you might check with your public library to see if they have a Friends of the Library group that sells used books. My library’s Friends group, for example, sells books in three venues: 1) semi-annual sales in the library’s community room; 2) whenever the library is open at the ongoing book sale shelves in the library; and 3) 24/7 at their Amazon book store. Your library’s Friends group most likely offers at least one of these options.

Books sold at Friends sales have been donated by the public, so there is usually a selection that reflects a wide variety of interests: fiction, travel, health, politics, history, gardening, cooking, etc. Prices, of course, are a fraction of the price you’d pay for new books. They’re also generally lower than commercial used books stores since Friends groups are nonprofits staffed by volunteers. offers an easy way to locate Friends of the Library book sales throughout the country. Check them out!

Magazines for seniors

Birds and Blooms magazineFlo is a 96 year old resident at Mom’s memory care community who loves to “read” magazines. She’ll sit for hours in the activity room paging through an issue of Woman’s Day or Travel & Leisure. In Flo’s case, the subject matter seems to be less important than the sensory enjoyment she finds in paging through magazines.

Of course other senior readers have the cognitive ability to actually read magazines and there are thousands to choose from, depending on the reader’s interests. Many supermarkets offer an assortment of titles where one can browse and buy sample copies. Libraries are another venue where you can sample titles on a variety of topics.

Magazine subscriptions make excellent gifts because they arrive regularly in the mailbox. They’re a gift that keeps on giving.

Here are some suggestions for some magazines many seniors enjoy:

Reminisce. Inspirational life stories, vintage photos, and features covering the turn of the century through the fifties. $10/year.

Good Old Days. Feel-good stories, articles and pictures from bygone times. $15.97/year.

Guideposts. Inspirational stories about people who have persevered through adversity. $12.97/year.

Birds & Blooms. Practical gardening and birding features that relate to the reader’s own back yard. $10/year.

Natural History. Articles on a wide range of nature and science topics with excellent photography and illustration. $25/year.

National Geographic. In-depth articles about nature, geography, ecology, science and technology with unparalleled photography. $12/year.

The Library Memory Project

Library Memory ProjectEight Wisconsin public libraries have formed a partnership to provide programs for people with dementia. It’s called the Library Memory Project. Their main activity is to host twice monthly “memory cafes” for people with early stage dementia and a care partner.

Each semi-monthly gathering has a theme, often designed to spark memories of earlier times. Some examples:

  • Independence Day. Participants gathered at the Hartland Library to sing favorite patriotic songs, test their knowledge of Independence Day and U.S. history, and enjoy cake with old and new friends.
  • Tie-dye. Franklin Library hosted a gathering where participants made tie-died socks, tried 60s trivia, and sang oldies.
  • Streets of Old Milwaukee. A speaker joined the group at Muskego Public Library to give a talk and show artifacts from the Milwaukee Public Museum.

These Wisconsin libraries are committed to serving the population with dementia. In addition to the memory cafes, they also regularly host programs for the general public about brain health and brain fitness. The Library Memory Project was named Outstanding Organization of the Year by the Alzheimer’s Association, Wisconsin Network.

Good work!

Books by Emma Rose Sparrow

Emma Rose SparrowEmma Rose Sparrow saw a need for books designed for people with cognitive problems when both of her parents were diagnosed with dementia. She believed these books should be formatted for easy reading, depending on the reader’s abilities. And they should look like regular books the reader would be proud to own. She has written and self-published 20 books for people with dementia. You’ll find them all on Emma’s Amazon page.

Emma defined three levels for her books. The Sandy Shoreline is an example of Level 3. It’s a 7 chapter story in just 44 pages. It features large print, extra space between sentences, and color photos throughout. Other titles in the Level 3 series are What the Wind Showed to Me, A Dusting of Snow, Three Things, Autumn’s Display, and Down by the Meadow.

Books in Level 2 place more emphasis on photos and less on words. The books in this series focus on colors. In A Year’s Worth of Yellow each page is independent of the others and includes a color picture with 1 or 2 short sentences to describe it. Other books in the Level 2 series are A Potpourri of Pink, A Parcel of Purple, An Ocean of Orange, A Gathering of Green, A Reservoir of Red, A World of White, and A Bevy of Blue.

Level 1 books are for readers who can no longer read words, but enjoy holding and paging through books. They’re picture books for adults. The titles in this series are The Splendor of Footbridges, The Splendor of Birds, The Splendor of Mother & Child Animals, The Splendor of Window Boxes, The Splendor of Babies, and The Splendor of Forests.

Dementia friendly libraries

ACT on Alzheimer'sHow can public libraries make sure they’re dementia friendly? Here are some suggestions about services, collection development, and physical space from Minnesota’s ACT on Alzheimer’s:

  • Train staff and volunteers to understand dementia.
  • Host programs that offer meaningful engagement for people with dementia.
  • Include in the collection books, audiobooks, magazines, music, and videos that can engage people with dementia.
  • Make sure the needs of people of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds with dementia are served.
  • Offer individual appointments with dementia sufferers and their caregivers to help them choose library materials.
  • Create memory boxes for circulation that include childhood toys, board games, crafts from previous decades, and local memorabilia for circulation.
  • Take library services to senior living communities and adult day care settings.
  • Make sure the library’s physical space includes appropriate signage, well lit entrances, non-slippery flooring, and a family/unisex restroom.

Looking for more detail? You’ll find the document Dementia Friendly Libraries on the ACT on Alzheimer’s website.