How to Get the Most from the Bard in Your Book

Being blind or visually impaired doesn’t have to be a barrier to enjoying a good book. As we celebrate National Reading Month in March, peer advisor and visually impaired freelance writer, Maribel Steel, highlights some of the benefits we can all continue to enjoy either on our own or with our children when we want to get the most from the “bard” in our books.

First Impressions

The magical world of words that first excites a child’s imagination is often conjured up from fairy tales and fables of childhood. This is a time of wonderment where the bard and the book are one, where nothing can replace the drama of a character as beautifully as in the voice of a loved one.

My own experience when I first heard the bard come alive in books were in the voices my father gave to the characters as he breathed life into the tales of Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling, Alice in Wonderland, and the menagerie in Doctor Dolittle.

a collection of children's books with different types of reading devices

Blind Bookworms Can Read Too

As an adult reader who has lost most of my eyesight to a degenerative eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), I’ve continued my love of reading by tapping into the world of the audiobook.

With the advent of the Internet, digital downloads of audiobooks are spilling out and being enjoyed by a voracious global reading community. One way to access a vast array of audiobooks is from the “talking book program” through the National Library Service. Peer advisor Audrey Demmit has written about the many benefits of “bibliotherapy” in her VisionAware article, “Reading to Enhance Mental Health and Well–Being”.

More Than Words Can Say

When we put aside time to listen or read our favorite books or to discover new ones to add to our list, we are doing much more than simply reading. Engaging the brain to focus on a developing plot and the description of characters brings a multitude of benefits.

Dive into a captivating book and you will:

  • Increase the blood flow to the brain, creating stronger analytical thinking skills
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Gain knowledge to help cope better with challenges
  • Enhance mental stimulation that can trigger memory by following story plots and posing internal questions
  • Become a better writer and communicator
  • Expand vocabulary that boosts self-confidence when talking to others
  • Foster empathy by being in another person’s thoughts and feelings
  • Reduce stress by taking time to relax into another realm of ideas

Best of Both Worlds: Reading with Children

Perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy a book is sharing the magic of story time with your young children or grandchildren. Whether it is the adult or the child who has a visual disability, you might be excited to know, as I was recently, of this brilliant way to share children’s books with the little ones in your family.

a man (Harry) reading a book to his step-son (Michael)

Storyline Online is a website that offers free children’s books that are beautifully read by actors from the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. When you select a title from a varied list, a video shows the actor reading the book so that the person who has some vision will see the colorful pages come to life while the blind or visually impaired person can follow the voice and ambient music sounds so that both of you can be immersed in story time together.

Although, I will admit, in doing my research for my grand-daughter, I found myself clicking to the next story as it was such a delightful ‘performance’. My favorite book in the collection is one called “Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon and is read by Pamela Reed. It is the story of a little night creature who learns “how can we be so different but feel so much alike?” when he discovers he is not a bird but a bat. Even Al Gore reads one title called “Brave Irene”—the child within me is really enjoying being transported back to my love of fairy tales.

A stand with a children's book and microphone prepared to an audiobook recording

In a world of rapidly moving trends, it is comforting to know that the tradition of oral storytelling is being transported through audio streams carrying the creative bard along a current of new digital possibilities to make the print book more accessible for all.

Happy Reading Everyone! Tell us what you love most about reading, listening to an audiobook, or other ways you take time to nurture your inner world through the love of words and story telling in the comments below.

New on VisionAware: Listen to one of Maribel’s short stories that won an Honorable Mention in the Vision Australia Dickenson’s Literary Awards: “Many Different Hats”.

Reading Resources

Storyline Online A-Z Directory of Children’s Books

Reading to Enhance Mental Health and Well-Being