Keeping the joy of reading alive

The Perkins Library enriches the lives of book-lovers who can’t read traditional print

A woman, child and man sit on a coach reading a large braille book with pictures

The Perkins Library provides accessible books to patrons, young and old, who have a visual impairment or other reading disability.

September 8, 2015

Today is International Literacy Day, which celebrates the importance of reading and writing in the lives of children and adults all over the globe. In honor of the day, we asked Debby King to talk about how the Perkins Library helps people keep reading, despite their disabilities.

As the Library Outreach Coordinator at Perkins, I’ve witnessed first-hand the impact that literacy can have on people’s lives.

Perkins Library patrons may have difficulty seeing regular-sized print. They may have difficulty holding a book due to a physical condition such as arthritis, stroke or Parkinson’s disease. Or, they may have a reading disability. Whatever the reason, if they want to read, we are here.

As part of my job, I have the privilege of going out into the community to spread the word about the Perkins Library. I tell people, “Imagine a library right at your front door. That is what Perkins Library provides.” Audio, large-print and braille books are delivered to the homes of our patrons by U.S. postal workers. No postage is necessary. Patrons read the book, turn over the address card and return the package for free.

It is so rewarding to be able to tell people that they can still enjoy reading, even if they can no longer see well enough to use regular print books. When I talk to new people, they cannot believe that this service is here, it is easy, it is accessible and it is free!

Oftentimes when I meet with patrons they tell me that our books are their “lifeline.” Some people say they read more than ever before because there are so many wonderful books available to them. The Library receives about 100 calls each day, many from patrons who tell us they don’t know what they would do without their books. Just last week a reader called. No books to order, no complaints, just pure thanks.

Another patron remembers the first talking book she received as a teenager – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – which ignited a life-long love of literature, old and new. 

“I discovered travel books and mysteries, historical fiction and political books,” she said. “I was off and running and I have never stopped.”

How lucky am I to be a part of a free and well-loved service that helps to enrich people’s lives in this way. One of my colleagues said it “is like being paid to eat chocolate.” I agree.

Not yet a Perkins Library patron? If you are a Massachusetts resident with a visual impairment or other reading disability, you may qualify to have free reading material sent to you. View eligibility guidelines and apply or call 1-800-852-3133.

Debby King is the Library Outreach Coordinator at the Perkins Library.