Why I Volunteer for Listening Books
Audiobooks are beneficial for so many people for such a variety of reasons. For Sarah, after she lost her sight, they became a solace and a new way to access reading. She talks about her experience, her favourite audiobooks, and volunteering for Listening Books!
I have been blind for six years now – and as you can imagine, listening to audiobooks has become a huge part of my life. I spend large stretches of my day with headphones on to maintain my privacy, doing the things we all do on our smartphones, like email and social media. It sometimes gets to the point that my family have to remind me to remove them, as I forget they are in my ears!
When I lost my sight I was in hospital for several months. During this time, I found audio incredibly comforting. I remember re-reading F Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby during this time and finding solace in those wonderful, familiar characters that inhabited such a different world.
I was sighted for over 30 years, so the re-adjustment has been incredibly hard, and is still ongoing. Previously, I worked both as an illustrator for magazines and also in events management, so my life was firmly rooted in the visual world. This was all part of my identity.
I went through a long period of grieving. Throughout that time, I immersed myself in audiobooks to help me cope, reading around the house as I did laundry. I still do this now. When I’m home alone for a few hours I put my headphones on for company so I don’t get freaked out by the creaking noises of the house or people walking past on the pavement outside. I love how audiobooks spark your imagination, forming vivid pictures in your mind and letting you forget your worries for awhile.
My reading habits are quite varied and depend on my mood. I have always loved mid-20th century fiction like Barbara Pym, Evelyn Waugh, and Agatha Christie, as well as enjoying more modern writers like Jonathan Coe. His recent novel, Middle England, is so good, and despite being set against the backdrop of Brexit, somehow manages to be funny with it. An author that I return to again and again is Maggie O’Farrell. Her characters are just so well drawn and relatable. I love the atmosphere of her books. I’m currently reading her memoir I Am, I Am, I Am. I love anything by Haruki Murakami, especially The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for its total orginality. My favourite audiobook this year was Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott. It’s based on the life of Truman Capote, and it really brought that mix of glamour and tragedy alive.
Volunteering at Listening Books
When my son started school I decided that I wanted to do some volunteering, and so I applied for a role at Listening Books. I love that they work with people who have all kinds of disabilities and health conditions to bring the joy of reading to as many people as possible.
In my volunteering role I create spreadsheets, support marketing projects and transcribe audio recordings. Learning to use the screen reader on my laptop is an ongoing and frustrating process, and one of the things I really enjoy about my role is that I can practice these new skills while doing research that contributes to the charity’s work. I also challenge myself to try new things, and recently took part in an episode of the Listening Books podcast, Voluminous, talking about my favourite reads. It was daunting, but good fun!
I also live with chronic pain in my feet, so finding motivation can be quite tricky. Working at Listening Books has helped me to find that impetus to get up and go. I always feel a sense of achievement and fulfillment having been to work, and it spurs me on to do more in future. I struggle at time, and volunteering helps to keep my outlook positive. It feels great to get out of the house and into the office to work with the team. It reminds me that I am capable, and I can move forward to do new things in my life.
I understand the power of reading. I like to think that because of volunteering someone else’s life is being enriched by greater access to books.
Why do you like audiobooks? Let us know in the comments!
Listening Books is a UK audiobook charity. We provide an online and postal library catering for anyone who struggles to read print or hold books. If you or someone you know struggles to read due to an illness or disability and you’d like to find out more about becoming a member of Listening Books, head over to our ‘why join’ page, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 020 7407 9417. You can also find out about our free membership options.