Audio Textbooks Bring Brighter Future
At Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, it's called learning through listening. For Olivia Norman, who's legally blind, recorded textbooks mean a brighter future.
"I have used RB and D for 14 years, since I was in the 4th grade, and now I am almost a senior at the University of Maryland, and I'll be a senior next semester," said Norman, who has books on tapes or CDs for biology, math and English. "I just couldn't have gotten through school or college without RB and D."
Ninth-grader Jeremiah Tabor can read, but books on tape help him understand and learn. Tabor admitted he was skeptical about audio textbooks at first because no one else was using them.
"Who would want to sit there and listen to books on tapes?" he asked. "But, once I tried it, it helped and I enjoyed it."
Elizabeth Ratigan, RB and D chairperson, added, "We are, unfortunately, the best-kept secret in Washington. We find more and more people who say, 'If we'd only known that you existed.' A lot of students have their parents read textbooks to them and, when the family finds out that this service is available, it's a lifesaver because it frees up the parents' time and it establishes students' independence as well."
But, Ratigan noted, it takes volunteers thousands of hours to record books on CDs.
"Every textbook that we record has to be marked to tell the readers where to insert certain things, like pictures, graphs or illustrations, and where they go in the textbook," she explained.
Ratigan says volunteers are not professional announcers; they're just regular people who love books and want to serve students who have trouble reading.
Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic has a library of 105,000 recorded volumes and will record any textbooks for students. The group won't charge a fee if people can't afford it. The organization also gives recorded textbooks and play-back equipment to children in poor communities.
Audio textbooks are a lifesaver for the blind or people who can't hold a book, as well as students who have learning disabilities.
"For me, it's really just been my lifeline to the school and probably, ultimately, to being employed," said Norman.