Written by Wiltshire Libraries
03 October 2022
Basil from Wiltshire Libraries tells us about running a Reading Friends reading group for people with sight loss.
How did the group start?
We started our Talking Book Reading Group for people with sight loss, following a number of enquiries from our library readers. This was launched initially as a partnership with the RNIB Library who still support us by providing talking books for the library readers. It went through a few different days and timings to work out what was most suitable for the attendees, eventually settling on a monthly Friday afternoon meeting in the library. We continued to meet monthly in the library until the Covid lockdown. We take it in turns to suggest a book, checking that it is available from the RNIB, so the range of titles is quite wide and doesn't particularly fit any theme,
How did people find out about the group?
We publicised it with the help of the Wiltshire Council Hearing and Vision Team by creating posters, inviting regular library members to join, promoting it with our Home Library Service Readers and through word of mouth. We met once a month in the library where we discussed the book that we had decided on during the previous meeting, often with a cup of tea! When all the libraries closed due to Covid we paused this reading group for a few months before restarting by phone. Library Staff were able to call each member by conference phone and continue our conversations very effectively. This was the first Wiltshire Library group to go virtual in Covid.
How does the group work over the phone?
We found that the reading group etiquette works well over the telephone. The Library Staff member usually leads the conversation, and each member quietly listens to the others before responding. Sometimes the quieter group members require some encouragement to keep talking. It helps that the group now know each other and are all confident with speaking over the telephone.
What do you enjoy talking about?
We all love the way the conversation goes beyond the specific book. We have had deep conversations about how we choose what we read, why some books are award-winning and others less so, and other similar conversations.
What difference has it made?
"Being a member of this reading group has and still is a fundamental part of my reading experience as a vision impaired person. I enjoy the varied discussions and topics our book choices produce every month via telephone, which brings the group members together no matter the location. May the reading group continue for as long as possible!" - Participant
"I stretch my reading horizons in this group as I discover books that I would not otherwise have read at all!" - Participant
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