Earlier this week I was chatting with a friend who has recently lost the ability to read following a series of strokes brought on by Covid. Up until then, he had been looking forward to retirement this year and spending more time with his three young grandchildren.
Like me he is passionate about books and, being a former newspaper man, he was also planning to introduce them to the world of current affairs through some junior news publications.
However, he was depressed that all these plans had been scuppered by his inability to read print anymore. Of course, he was delighted at the prospect of finally being able to meet up with his grandchildren again, but as he said, ‘how am I going to keep them entertained?’
I was about to retort that he had plenty of his own stories to share, before it dawned on me that, even more than the rest of us, what he was craving is interaction with other people and sharing the joy of wonder.
I knew just how he felt. I was fortunate to have enough sight left to teach my elder daughter to read and enjoyed accompanying her right up till her discovery of The Famous Five. But I’d barely taught her younger sister the alphabet before my sight got too poor to be of any assistance. I remember that this, which coincided with my no longer being able to play board and ball games with my kids, made me feel redundant.
So instead of platitudes I thought I should offer my friend a solution. And I had one – in my Pocket!
Within Pocket’s audiobook libraries there is a wealth of books for children of all ages. There are thousands of books by the most-loved authors of yesteryear including EE Nesbit, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, and Richmal Crompton’s evergreen Just William stories. And there’s an ever-growing treasure trove of contemporary children’s literature.
Both the RNIB Reading Services Library and Calibre are committed to providing access to the titles that children with print disabilities want to read and so a simple search of your Pocket will whisk you off to the woods to meet The Gruffalo, transport you to Ancient Greece with Percy Jackson, or leave you spellbound by Stephen Fry’s magical narration of the entire Harry Potter series.
So, whether you want to read along with your children or grandchildren, or just know what they are talking about, Pocket is here to help.
But it’s not only fiction that you can find in the libraries. Among the over 3000 titles that Calibre has for children are educational books for each of the Key Stages, meaning that families with a blind or partially sighted child can have full access to learning.
Away from the libraries, Pocket of course has dozens of radio stations and podcasts to choose from some of which like Fun Kids from DAB+ Radio are specifically aimed at a younger audience, and others like the brilliant You’re Dead to Me podcast (from the makers of Horrible Histories) will entertain everyone.
And in case all that wasn’t enough, and of particular interest to my former journalist friend, was the super selection of newspapers and magazines for children and young people on offer via RNIB Newsagent. These include First News (which was always my kids’ favourite), and The Week Junior (which like its big brother harvests The World’s press for interesting and relevant articles but is aimed specifically at school-age children). And if you want to delve deeper into a subject there’s Aquila, a terrific UK-based educational magazine for boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 13. Each monthly issue revolves around a different theme (this month it was Bugs and Insects), and is full of puzzles, fun facts and activities.
So, as I said to my friend, what with all of that in his Pocket there is no excuse for either him or his grandchildren to feel uninspired when they meet up.