Whether you listened to a talking cassette years ago from your State’s library for the blind or a recorded novel from Audible, you’ve heard the credit given to its narrator. Sometimes, it’s the book’s author. At other times, a lone volunteer has responded to a library’s help-wanted ad and given a few hours’ time to make our favorite action adventure or cozy romance come alive.
The trend toward audible books on CD or digital download has caught on in the past couple decades for the general public since many of us live in the hurry-up-and-wait commute to and from work. Blind and visually impaired readers have relied on full length texts on tape much longer than that. It was very common for us to get the latest copy of Braille Book Review, call our State library’s lending service and request those books be sent to us in a plastic box that’s about the size of a cardboard sandwich container from MacDonald’s. It could take from three days to a couple weeks for those books to arrive. Then when they did, we poured over them for hours using a specially made recorder whose speed, pitch and volume changed with the push of a slide bar.
Now, even with books coming our way via the Victor Stream or downloaded from Bookshare, the recorded voice of a narrator still graces our ears. Radio Reading Services in many parts of the country solicit the need for people to read selections of the local newspaper, a whole host of other periodicals, and even community organization updates. Often these volunteers spend hours putting their voice into electronic text, editing and re-editing their work and making sure their diction is clear enough for us to understand. While some of us prefer those readers that narrate at a casual, conversational pace, many older readers benefit from the more methodical cadence of someone who enunciates each word with crystalline clarity.
Occasionally, these readers-and we all have our favorites-receive a small stipend for their work. Or, when helping such organizations as the Lutheran Library for the Blind or Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, they gain charitable recognition in a quarterly news bulletin or at an annual banquet. Their service is truly a labor of love that touches millions who may or may not be able to read the printed page. So, this week, we say, “Thank you” to our talking or audio book narrators who have kept us company at home, on the long drive or when preparing for classes in school.