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Twenty volunteers came together on Tuesday to record audio books that help people who are visually impaired or suffer from dyslexia to experience the joy of reading.
The effort was part of the national Read Across America Day, and was held by the Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, Southern California (RFB&D), an organization based in Hollywood that maintains a library of thousands of audio books that are specifically made for people with impaired vision. The day included marathon recording sessions by the volunteers, and readings for children. KTLA morning news anchor, Jessica Holmes, participated by reading to students from the Hollywood Headstart Preschool, which serves low-income families. The theme of the national Read Across America Day was “Different Ways to Read”. Holmes read the Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham” in celebration of Seuss’ birthday on March 2.
“We did this to let people know that that there is help, and if they are diagnosed with a disability, they can start getting books on CD or on MP-3 files,” said Diane Kelber, communications director for RFB&D. “Our goal is to make sure people have equal access to the printed page.”
The RFB&D has a library of approximately 50,000 audio books, most of which are textbooks or other reading materials required for school. The library includes everything from academic subjects like mathematics, English, foreign languages and psychology, to classic literature and fiction. Kelber said approximately one in five students has some type of learning disability that affects their ability to read, and that many of RFB&D’s 6,400 clients are not completely blind, but need the option of listening to an audio book to understand. The RFB&D has audio books for students from preschool through graduate school. Access to the RFB&D’s library is free for anyone who is diagnosed with a disability, and many of the books are now downloadable by computer, providing even more access at home or school.
Henry Vasquez, an RFB&D client who lost his sight in an accident 15 years ago, said he would not have been able to succeed in school without the help of the audio books. Vasquez graduated last year from California State University, Los Angeles with a degree in psychology. He demonstrated a small device called a FlexTalk 2, which is similar to a portable CD player, that allows him to listen to books in various locations.
“They helped me with everything,” Vasquez said. “My school didn’t have any of my textbooks on audio, but I called (RFB&D) two weeks ahead of time and ordered it, and it came right to my house,” Vasquez said. “Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to graduate. Every year I made the dean’s list, and in my last year, I made the college president’s list.”
Kelber said the volunteers recorded 137 hours of audio during Read Across America Day. Chris Pechin recorded books for seven hours straight. Pechin, a regular volunteer for RFB&D, previously set a record at the RFB&D by recording books for 12 hours. Pechin said he was inspired to get involved with RFB&D because he has a son who is dyslexic.
“The best thing is helping students who are either blind, dyslexic, or both, because they are able to receive the tools they need to go on to live productive lives,” Pechin said. “Whether it’s going on to earn a degree or start a career, it basically allows them to come out of a tunnel.”
Kelber added that although the marathon sessions were a success, volunteers are always needed for recording. She encouraged anyone who is interested in volunteering, or anyone with a disability who needs the audio books, to contact the RFB&D at (323)664-5525.
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