Blind World Magazine

Recorded books spark students enthusiasm to learn.

October 05, 2005.
Knoxville News Sentinel, Tennessee.

"Reading is like a movie being played in your head instead of on a movie screen." That's how one of Krista Thompson's students described the experience of learning from recorded textbooks. Thompson teaches students with special needs and learning disabilities at Porter Elementary School in Blount County.

"When I first met them (her students), they did not enjoy reading, and many had never checked out a school library book," Thompson said in a thank-you letter to the supporters of the Tennessee Unit of Reading for the Blind & Dyslexic in Oak Ridge. "These were students who had little confidence in themselves and unfortunately were failing in the classroom,"

Then Thompson learned from Karen Perry, educational outreach director for the Oak Ridge facility, that her students could "Learn Through Listening." By using recorded textbooks in the classroom, she saw her students develop an eagerness to come to school, improve their reading levels and even begin to read aloud to younger students at their school. The students, along with Thompson, even visited the local unit to see how and where some of the textbooks are recorded.

The nonprofit organization serves any student who has a text disability, which includes those who are blind, dyslexic or have a handicap that prevents them from working well with printed text. The national headquarters is in Princeton, N.J., and Oak Ridge's is one of 30 studios across the country. Students, parents or schools contact the headquarters to request books. After one of the studios records the books, the materials are sent on cassette or CD to the student.

All types of texts are recorded: math, history, law, business, religion, psychology and more. In addition to reading the text, the reader must describe the maps, tables and photos.

"We have a great group of volunteers already from all over East Tennessee, but we are always looking for additional volunteers, especially as the need for this text medium continues to grow," said C.C. Morris, local digital audio administrator. "When a volunteer comes in, they read whatever is needed at the time. So you might read history one week and literature the next. However, we do not expect our volunteers to read in subjects that are not familiar to them."

Especially needed are readers with a background in science, mathematics, law and other technical areas.

Volunteers perform other tasks at the unit, including directing, master checking and bookmarking in the studio. Other volunteers help with outreach to local schools and assist with fund-raising and special events. New volunteers attend a 45-minute introductory session that includes a studio tour and provides more information on the organization's mission. Following the orientation, volunteers can select how and when they would like to help.

Two physicists founded the local unit in 1952. They thought the large number of scientists in the area made East Tennessee an ideal location for a studio and contacted the RFB&D founder, Anne T. Macdonald. Macdonald helped establish the organization in 1948 to assist blinded World War II veterans who wanted to continue their education.

In addition to Morris and Perry, the local staff includes Brian Jenkins, executive director, and Jennifer Hayes, studio director. The unit also provides site visits, teacher and student training, and PTA/PTO presentations in Anderson, Knox and surrounding counties. To learn more, visit the Web site at UNITS_TN_home.htm

or call 865-483-9934.

Cathy Rogers writes about the Blue Grass and Cedar Bluff areas and may be reached at or 865-539-0871.

Source URL:,1406,KNS_18097_4129114,00.html.

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