A question I’m sometimes asked bugs the heck out of me: “Did you read that book or listen to it?” As far as I know, there are three ways to read: using your eyes, using your ears, or reading braille with your fingers. None is better than the other; whatever gets info into brain is best.
Reading is so important to me, it’s almost a religion. Holy days include Louis Braille’s birthday in January, Read Across America day in March and National Library Week in April. Braille was born 206 years ago, so independent reading for the blind is not as old as the United States. Braille books were basically only available from the state branch of the National Library Service when I was growing up, so the librarian there was my first boyfriend because he sent me books! Later this spring I’ll participate in a Scrabble Bee fundraiser for our local literacy organization because I know what it’s like to not be able to read independently simple things like medication labels, bus schedules, job applications, etc. Nowadays with Internet access, downloadable audiobooks and screen readers, much more information is available by reading with my ears. Of course for some things like doing Sudoku or playing cards there’s nothing like braille.
Later this month I’ve been asked to read a couple poems in a Robert Frost birthday celebration my university is having in celebration of a collection of Frost books and letters that was donated to the university. One of the books is a braille volume (in mint condition) of a 1942 book of poems The Witness Tree. To read from a book older than I am gives me shivers! I now understand why people will stand in line to gaze at a document like the King James Bible or the U.S. Constitution.
Each way to read has its disadvantages:
• Braille: no cartoons or comics
• Print: have to turn the light on to read in bed
• Audio: may have to take notes so don’t fall asleep while reading
Just in case you’re looking for some good books to curl up with, here’s an eclectic group that a book club I’m in will be discussing this year. Only requirement was that the book be available from the public library in audio, large print and regular print so all club members could access it. Our list for 2014: Come Home by Lisa Scottiline, Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kierman, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, Dear Life by Alice Munro, Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman, Sycamore Row by John Grisham, and David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell.