State offers free talking book program for those with trouble reading regular print

Sonny Long

July 10, 2010 at 2:10 a.m.

Gayle Harvey wants to be able to hear the word of God, even if someday she can't see well enough to read it.

That's why Harvey, a 63-year-old retiree from Victoria, listened with interest at a presentation Wednesday on the state's Talking Book program.

"I love reading the Bible. It's part of my life," Harvey said. "I wear bifocals now and have diabetes, so I want to be prepared if there comes a time I can't see well enough to read."

The program, run by the Texas State Library, offers free audio recordings of more than 80,000 titles in fiction and non-fiction as well as national magazines. Books are also available in braille and large print and many titles are available in Spanish.

"Everything we offer is free," said Stephen Biles of the Texas State Library. "There are a lot of reasons you might be eligible to use our service."

The program is for people of all ages who are unable to read standard print material because of visual, physical or reading disabilities, explained Biles, who made the presentation at the Victoria Senior Citizens Center.

Biles then held up a cassette.

"This is our book," he said. "It's about the size of a deck of cards. What we do with this book is put it inside a machine, called a player."

He then inserted the cartridge into the player and demonstrated it for those gathered at the senior citizens center for lunch.

Biles said books may also be downloaded onto a portable drive and played on a home computer.

Biles emphasized the ease of use of the program.

"Everything you need to do, you can do by telephone with a toll-free number" he said. "It doesn't cost anything. Everything we do is free. We are funded by the Library of Congress and the Texas State Library. So you've already paid for this through your taxes."

Biles said on any given day they send out about 5,000 books.

"We'd like to add you to our list of readers. We want you to read with us," he said. "We'll find out what kind of books you want and how often you want them."

When the cassettes come in the mail, they come with a self-addressed label to return them, no postage required.

The player is also sent to the reader, at no charge.

Books may be kept for 45 days, Biles said.

"If you know someone who has trouble reading regular print, we'd love to have you," he said. "We have some people in Victoria, but we'd love to have more."



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