Adventures in reading

I can still recite the words of the theme song to the 1980s PBS children’s television show, Reading Rainbow.  “Butterfly in the sky, I can fly twice as high, take a look, it’s in a book, reading rainbow!”  Along with the song, I vaguely recall a cartoon drawing of a book sprouting huge, colorful wings as it morphed into a butterfly and took flight.  Untold adventures were about to begin!

Books as therapy

A bookworm since childhood, I was curious to learn recently about a type of therapy that uses reading in a formal capacity as a mental health tool.  According to Wikipedia, bibliotherapy typically involves storytelling or the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing, using an individual’s relationship to the literature as therapy.  A library might be referred to as a “house of healing for the soul,” to borrow a phrase from Ancient Egypt.

Bibliotherapy for the visually impaired

Even in the digital age, good, old-fashioned books are still a channel for learning, growing, relating, and understanding. There is nothing quite like the joy of reading!  Yet for people with vision loss, reading can become increasingly challenging, frustrating, and overly tedious.

In her article on Vision Aware, registered nurse Audrey Demmitt advocates for reading therapy as a way of dealing with vision loss.  Audrey, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age 25, speaks from her personal experience with bibliotherapy.  “As I was learning to adjust to vision loss, I was drawn to read books about blindness and books written by authors who were blind.  I found it very helpful and motivating to enter the narratives of others who were sharing their own stories of vision loss. Some books were informational, some humorous, and others deeply moving.  I realized that the cumulative effect was that I understood more about blindness, and my feelings about it were changing.  Reading books on blindness, memoirs, and biographies of blind writers have had a very positive influence on my ability to adjust and cope with vision loss.”

For the visually impaired, bibliotherapy can have a profound positive impact in adjusting to life with vision loss.  To help others along this journey, Audrey and her colleagues compiled a reading list of nearly 75 books on blindness.  Many titles are available through the Library of Congress in audio or braille formats.

Technology makes reading possible again

Are you or a loved one adjusting to life with vision loss?  Rest assured that with today’s technology, it is still possible to nurture a lifelong love of reading.  One tool that may be useful is the Compact 10 HD, a portable video magnifier by Optelec.  This device (which is available with or without text-to-speech) is simply-to-use and affordable.  Its large screen means that more text fits on the page, making reading much easier.  Better still, the Compact 10 weighs only about 2 pounds, so you can tote it with you anywhere — from the living room to the local library.

Should you like to learn more about the Compact 10 HD or other portable magnifiers, feel free to contact us.  Happy reading!

Bibliotherapy for the visually impaired