• “I believe I would go insane without reading for pleasure. I really do. It’s that important,” one survey participant told researchers. (Sarah, aged 50-64 years, England.)
According to this new research into the impact of reading for pleasure on the lives of blind and partially sighted adults 82 per cent of the people said that reading for pleasure was ‘very important’ in their lives, whilst 95 per cent read for pleasure more than once a week, with over half (55 per cent) reading more than ten hours per week, figures which appear to be considerably higher than the general population.
The research was commissioned by leading sight loss charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to mark Read for RNIB Day and conducted by The Reading Agency, the charity working to inspire more people to read more, and LISU research and information centre at Loughborough University. Its full findings are published in a report entitled Assessing the impact of reading for blind and partially sighted adults. (Please see “Notes to editors” for more information.)
Linked to its impact on quality of life and well-being, the new research also reveals that reading plays a significant role in helping blind and partially sighted adults cope with life’s pressures, including significant moments such as bereavement; engaging them in meaningful activity that passes the time, occupies the mind, and represents a stimulating alternative to activities that are no longer easy or possible to undertake.
Avril believes reading “keeps me completely in touch with who I am”. Now 60, she was in her early forties when her sight began to change as a result of macular dystrophy in both eyes. She felt that people’s perceptions of her changed, but reading is “the one thing I hold on to. I’ve had to change things or give up things but reading keeps me in touch”.
The recommendations of the report centre around ensuring that authors, publishers, RNIB, public libraries and local authorities all work and collaborate wherever possible to ensure that appropriate materials are available in a variety of formats including, for example, text-to-speech enabling on e-books. The research also indicates the importance of accessible presentation of reading material to enable selection without sighted assistance and the value of library reading group provision as a significant social, well- being and learning experience for blind readers. It also recognises the importance of library services continuing to build on the valuable framework provided by Six Steps to library services for blind and partially sighted people, in particular, building the needs of blind and partially sighted readers into the organisation of reading events and promotions.
Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE, chief executive of RNIB, says: "So many of the people who come to us are at breaking point, struggling to adjust to living without sight. And often it's our reading services such as Talking Books, giant print books or telephone book groups that people undergoing this traumatic and life changing transformation describe as a lifeline. We hope that this research will explain the importance of our services and get involved in Read for RNIB Day on 19 October."
“This research shows that this value is intensified for people who are blind and partially sighted – for many reading is a life line that helps define who they are and their relationship with the world around them. We must all work together to ensure that participation in what is after all a very cost effective activity is available to as many blind and partially sighted people as possible,” says Debbie Hicks, director of research for The Reading Agency.
"Reading is something that most of us take for granted. Blind and partially sighted people have to make an extra effort to obtain books in formats they can access, and although this research was based on a relatively small sample, the results clearly show how much reading means to them. Making books more accessible, in a variety of formats and from a range of sources, can only bring benefits to all,” says Claire Creaser, director of LISU, Loughborough University.
• The Reading Agency is an independent charity working to inspire more people to read more. It is funded by the Arts Council, and has a formal partnership with public library services (www.readingagency.org.uk )