Elizabeth Barrett Browning
With Valentine’s Day coming up this week, I’m in the mood for love poetry which, by the way, is excellent for reading aloud and shared reading with seniors.
If you’re in the mood too, you might want to try these three classic love poems: 1) How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning; 2) She Walks in Beauty, by George Gordon Byron; and Of Love: A Sonnet, by Robert Herrick.
Want more? Here are some suggestions for compilations of romantic poetry:
A Little, Aloud With Love – This anthology of prose and poetry was compiled by The Reader Organization, a British nonprofit that works to bring people and great literature together for shared reading.
77 Love Sonnets by Garrison Keilor – Yes, that Garrison Keilor, from Prairie Home Companion. You can sample them on his website or order from an online bookseller.
101 Classic Love Poems – A collection of poems on love and romance.
Mom has dementia, but she still knows me and we have simple conversations. We enjoy looking at picture books together. The other day we had fun looking at Anne Geddes book Little Blessings.
It occurred to me recently that I could create a photo book for Mom with our family’s photographs. It could tell the family story chronologically — the marriages, births, deaths. And it could remind us of places we lived, vacations we took, and friends we care about.
Of course the time-honored way to organize family photographs is with scrapbooks. You can keep it simple with scrapbooks or you can go crazy with themes, special papers, stickers, and more. You can add and subtract pages whenever you want. I’m not knocking scrapbooks — they’re great.
I’m leaning toward a photo book for two reasons. First, our family is spread out around the country and it’ll be easier to get them to help with the project because I can store it in the cloud. And second, we can print multiple copies.
I found reviews of some photo book services on the Safe Smart Living website and plan to get started on the project this week. I’ll keep you posted.
BTW, the toddler in the picture above is Mom, circa 1926.
Lydia Burdick’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1998. Lydia visited her mom often; they’d eat together, watch tv, and look at magazines. She wanted to read aloud with her mother, so Lydia looked for appropriate uplifting reading materials. She couldn’t find any, so she decided to write the books she’d hoped to find. She recruited her artist friend Jane Freeman to draw the illustrations.
The idea with Lydia’s Two Lap Book series is to sit with your loved one with the books across both laps. You can read the books straight through or use the text and pictures to spark conversations or sing recommended songs. Currently there are three books in the series; there could be more in the future.
The Sunshine on My Face describes universally appealing experiences: feeling the warmth of the sun on your face, listening to music, watching children play, and going for a ride in the countryside.
Happy New Year to You celebrates each month of the year with familiar images: rain showers in April, weddings in June, school days in September.
Wishing on a Star inspires pleasant feelings about common experiences, both past and present: the smell of coffee in the morning, holding hands, the feeling of a warm breeze.
Two Lap Books are available in English and Japanese. It’s possible that they’ll be published in other languages too in the future.
I asked Lydia how she measures the success of the series. “I measure its success by the endorsements Two-Lap Books has received by professionals in the field, the appreciation I receive when I meet caregivers who have incorporated Two-Lap Books into their visits with loved ones with dementia, and reviews posted on Amazon by caregivers,” she said.
Lydia also suggested that others who want to write for people with dementia should just do it and see what works. Great advice!
I came across an interesting article titled “Reading Aloud to the Elderly” in The Lancet, a British medical journal. Texas journalist Carolyn Banks wrote about her experiences as an activities director in an adult day care center in the 1980s.
Carolyn loved to read so she settled on reading stories aloud as an activity for her clients. She discovered that reading aloud had a soothing effect with those who were agitated and drew out those who were usually withdrawn.
Finding engaging stories for this population proved to be difficult, so Carolyn compiled two volumes of short stories, A Loving Voice and A Loving Voice II. They’re out of print now, but used copies are available online. I borrowed them from the public library.
I asked Carolyn what to look for in read-aloud stories. “What I’ve discovered is that the writing has to be very straightforward, almost like children’s books in terms of style and language, but on adult topics and featuring adults as characters,” Carolyn said. “I also discovered that the person reading has to do so loudly and slowly with a lot of enthusiasm. Maybe even exaggerated.” She warned against stories with a lot of dialog.
Carolyn said reading aloud can help the reader too. “A lot of our thinking about A Loving Voice was that it would also benefit the person doing the reading. It would give them a way to fill the time in a way that would feel good to them and to the person they were visiting.”
As a loved one’s health declines, it can be hard to make conversation or find activities to share. When that happens, I recommend reading aloud to your loved one. I found an excellent series of articles that cover the who, what, where, when, and how of reading aloud to the elderly. They’re by writer/editor Beth Stilborn who offers words of wisdom about writing, reading, grammar, and punctuation on her website, www.bethstilborn.com.
Here are some tips from Beth:
- Ask leading questions like “do you still like to read?” Depending on your loved one’s response, you can offer to read to (or with) them.
- Pick reading material that matches their interests.
- Don’t limit yourself to books. You can read magazine articles, poetry, even letters.
- You don’t need to be physically present. You can read aloud to a loved one over the phone.
Reading aloud can be a wonderful way to spend time with a loved one. I hope you’ll try it and let me know how it goes.