Reading has always been an enormous part of my life, and looking back, it has had its seasons. At some points in my life I have devoured book after book within a few days, at others I have haphazardly read a few pages every so often. Sometimes I have read and re-read, sometimes I have read and thrown down in disgust, though not very often. Now that I have a two year old, I am reading less and less for myself, and more and more for my son. This is my current season: I have luxuriated in Anna Karenina, swallowed Twilight whole and am currently stalled in Madame Bovary, while being permanently entrenched on the Island of Sodor.
From an early age I have had the desire to read for others. I had images of myself reading in a nursing home, reading at a hospice for the blind, reading for my children. When my husband and I first got married, I recorded The Professor’s House by Willa Cather for him, knowing he would love it but never read it. I used a hand-held cassette recorder and five 90-minute audio tapes. Nowadays my reading aloud is a little more high tech.
I volunteer for Maine Airs, a branch of The Iris Network, which serves the blind community in Maine. Gone are the days that fascinated me of reading by a bedside, or stop-and-start cassette recording. Technology has given so much more access to things that were once unreachable by many. Now once a week I hop on over to the studio, hook myself up to some headphones, and using Total Recorder on a PC off I go. A quick email to the program manager, complete with “I coughed at 3 minutes 5 seconds” and we are ready for editing and broadcast. The program manager is a two-hour drive away, and all this is done seamlessly. For several years I have been a stand-in, swinging by at 8 am to read the daily paper, complete with death announcements. Now I stop by once a week to read Down East magazine, which airs in four half-hour segments over the course of a month. Technology in the home has given many people access to previously unknown worlds; this program goes a step further than that. While audio books are readily available, and podcasts are becoming the norm, it is the local media that remains untouchable for many. Maine Airs does also offer audio books on its website, read by its staff of volunteers such as myself. I have yet to figure out how to give a rendition of a graphic novel. I am proud to be part of this organization, and help propagate an obsession I would have a hard time living without.