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Free Talking Book Program Helps Vision-Impaired Readers

U.S. program sends talking books and other reading materials to your home


Grandfather and boy listening to music by a MP3-Player
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Do you love to read but have vision impairment?

You should know about the talking book program, a free service from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), and the Library of Congress.

What is the Talking Book Program?
The talking book program is a free library service available to U.S. residents, or American citizens living abroad, who have low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that makes reading a standard printed page difficult. Through a national network of regional libraries, NLS mails books and magazines in Braille and on cassette, along with audio playback equipment, directly to enrollees at no cost.

By enabling people to read independently, the program has become a lifeline to many vision-impaired readers, including seniors with vision difficulties due to age-related conditions such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Meet New People: Join a Talking Book Club
The talking book program does more than facilitate reading—it also brings people together.

Talking book clubs, offered through NLS regional and sub-regional libraries, provide patrons with the opportunity to discuss the books they have read and to share their love of reading with others. Talking book clubs are open to readers of all ages. Many of the 132 cooperating libraries across the U.S. host summer reading clubs for young patrons and participate in NLS’s national “102 Talking-Book Club,” which honors people age 100+ for their lifelong devotion to reading.

Readers who are unable to attend NLS talking book club meetings can often participate by telephone or computer. Online-only clubs are also available, allowing NLS patrons nationwide to connect with other sighted and visually impaired book lovers—without leaving home.

Benefits of the Talking Book Club
The talking book clubs often create friendships and a sense of togetherness and community, and the clubs give participants a chance to share their feelings about vision loss. “The meetings are a time when patrons can discuss their lives, feelings about going blind, and challenges they face daily,” says Dawn Fuller, the talking book club coordinator for Braille Institute Library Services, the NLS regional library in Los Angeles.

“My interest in books has developed,” says talking book club member, Michael Conrad, a patron of the Los Angeles regional library, in a news release. “The meetings also get me out to socialize. I have great discussions and meet new people.”

Talking book clubs also expose patrons to new materials, broadening their appetites for literature, expanding their imaginations and encouraging them to pursue new pastimes. With a collection of more than 400,000 titles, including the latest bestsellers, classics, biographies, romances, mysteries, and westerns, NLS offers no shortage of inspiration.

Recent book club discussions have focused on top-sellers such as The Kite Runner, Marley and Me, Wicked, The Secret Life of Bees, and The Black Dahlia. “I’ve been introduced to things I wouldn’t have thought of reading,” says Bea Thaxter, a talking book club participant in Los Angeles. “Now I am even writing—and I never knew I could.”

Connect with the World Through Talking Books
The NLS reports that talking book club discussions often inspire patrons to explore new ways to connect with the world around them. Many talking book readers have taken on leadership roles in their local communities, starting their own book discussion groups. Others have used talking book resources to participate in other book clubs not affiliated with their local libraries.

Want to Learn More about the Talking Book Program?
For more information about the NLS free talking book program, including: Ul]

  • Eligibility requirements for the talking book program
  • How to join the talking book program
  • Where to find participating libraries
  • How to order reading materials online…
  • Visit the NLS talking book site or call toll free: 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

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