That all may read

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically HandicappedThe NLS has a tag line that touches me: That all may read. It’s a worthy goal.

NLS, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is a program of the Library of Congress that serves people with low vision, blindness, or physical disabilities that prevent them from reading or holding the printed page. Through a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS offers books in braille or audio formats, mailed to your door for free, or instantly downloadable.

The NLS BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) service offers downloadable digital audio books and magazines to eligible NLS patrons. There are more than 20,000 digital books and over 40 magazines available for download, with new titles being added regularly. A big advantage of BARD over library e-book services is that there are no wait lists, limits, or due dates.

In addition to BARD, NLS offers guidance on magnifying devices, braille embossers, braille displays and notetakers, accessible mobile reading apps, and audiobook players.

In Oregon, where I live, the NLS program is administered locally by the Talking Book and Braille Library at the State Library in Salem. You can find links to all the state programs on the NLS website.

If you or a loved one are eligible for NLS, I encourage you to learn more about this excellent service.



Romantic poetry for reading aloud

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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.

Family photo books for senior reading

Mom and familyMom 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.

Shadowbox Press offers books for dementia patients

Shadowbox PressWhen I started this blog, I thought there weren’t any books written for dementia patients. I was wrong. My most recent discovery is Shadowbox Press, a company that specializes in books and activity cards for memory impaired adults.

There are eight books in the series: Flowers, America, Bible Verses, Dogs and Puppies, Colors, Seasons, Fun and Games, and Wild Animals. Each 64 page book includes photographs paired with brief text in large print. In addition, each book includes conversation starters and activities related to the book’s subject matter.

The conversation starters are a mix of closed- and open-ended questions. For example, some of the questions in Flowers are “Have you ever grown peonies?”, “What flowers do you like in a bouquet?”, and “Have you ever been a member of a garden club?”

The activities are designed to encourage mental and physical engagement. Some suggested activities in Flowers include inspecting flowers with a magnifying glass, moisturizing hands with floral-scented lotion, and making pressed flowers.

Matt Schneider, the owner of Shadowbox Press, says his company measures their success in both customer feedback and sales figures. “The feedback we have receive from individuals and caregivers for adults living with mid and late stage dementia, has been very positive,” Matt said.

In addition to books, Shadowbox Press offers Conversation Card sets designed to promote opportunities to reminisce, recall special memories, and share stories. The three available card sets are titled Familiar Words, Nostalgic Items, and Words for Guys.

Shadowbox Press books are priced at $19.95 and the card sets at $29.95. Discounts are available when you order multiple books and/or cards. Matt noted that many libraries across the country have ordered sets of the activity books. “For individuals who don’t have the means to purchase the books, they can request their local library to buy the set of Shadowbox Press books for their community to share,” Matt said. I plan to look into this with my library.

Matt says the company introduced a new deck of Conversation Cards in early January, 2017. They might be adding new books in the future too, but nothing is planned at this time. I hope they do!

Anne Geddes’ books for reading aloud

Little BlessingsAnne Geddes is widely known as a photographer who specializes in images of babies in imaginative settings. As Anne’s website notes, her “…imagery singularly captures the beauty, purity and vulnerability of children embodying her deeply held belief that each and every child must be protected, nurtured and loved.”

Some of Anne’s books are excellent candidates for reading aloud with dementia patients. Little Blessings, for example, combines Anne’s photography with poetry and text that celebrate the blessings we receive with children.

My favorite image in Little Blessings shows sleeping twins with angel wings and the wish “May your day be filled with blessings, like the sun that lights the sky, and may you have the courage to spread your wings and fly.”

I brought a copy of Little Blessings with me when I visited Mom yesterday. She thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended!

Borrowing e-books from the library

E-bookMost public libraries offer a free e-book borrowing service. It’s available to everyone of course, but this service can be especially valuable to seniors  who are home bound and those with visual handicaps.

There are two services available for libraries to offer — cloudLibrary and Overdrive. Some libraries offer one service or the other. I’m lucky: my library offers both.

Libraries buy the e-books from cloudLibrary and Overdrive, so the selection available through the library is limited to the titles purchased by the library. Budget permitting, libraries can elect to buy multiple copies of e-books if they expect high demand; one copy can only be checked out to one person at a time.

Libraries set their own policies for borrowing e-books through cloudLibrary and OverDrive. My library lets you check out 6 at a time, place holds on 6 at a time, and keep e-books for 21 days. Your library could have different policies.

To use these services, you download the free apps from your library’s website (or an app store) to your computer, tablet, smartphone, or other device. During setup you enter your library’s information and your library card number. It’s pretty easy although some seniors might need help if they haven’t used computers much.

Once you’re signed up, you can find out what e-books are available from your library by searching the app. If you’re looking for a particular book, you can search by author and title. Or you can browse the library’s holdings in your favorite genre.

I’ve found that reading books on an electronic device is an acquired taste. I can do it, but still prefer to read traditional books printed on paper. But that’s just me.

LibriVox audiobooks for senior listening

AudiobooksAudiobooks present a great way for all seniors, and especially for those with visual handicaps, to enjoy books by listening to them.

They’ve been around for a long time; you’ll find an interesting history of audiobooks in Wikipedia. The first “talking books program” was established by the American Federation for the Blind and the Library of Congress in 1931. Since then there have been many changes as various technologies evolved. The industry settled on the name “audiobook” to be inclusive of all the different formats.

Today you can download audiobooks to listen on your smartphone or other mobile device. You can stream them over the internet. And you can play them on CD and DVD players. There are lots of options.

The website LibriVox offers an easy way to listen to audiobooks for free. LibriVox includes more than 10,000 audio recordings of books in the public domain, all recorded by volunteers.  I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan, so I decided to test LibriVox by listening to stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. There are 67 titles by Doyle in LibriVox. I settled on The Hound of the Baskervilles for my test and found five different recordings. In three of them, the entire book was read by a single reader. In another, chapters were read by different readers. And one was a “dramatic reading” where different readers read the parts of the various characters. I found them all to be excellent and very enjoyable.

With LibriVox you have several ways to listen:

  • Download entire books in zip files for later listening.
  • Click the “play” button to play in your browser.
  • Click the iTunes button to download the audio files into iTunes.
  • Subscribe to the RSS feed.
  • Download using BitTorrent protocol.

In future posts I’ll cover some other sources for audiobooks, including today’s bestsellers.