Talking Books were first developed in 1920 for soldiers blinded during the First World War. Almost a century on HELOISE WOOD speaks to the Royal National Institute of Blind People about its latest campaign to ensure reading can be enjoyed by everyone.

ALMOST two million people in the UK are living with sight loss and every day 100 people in Britain start losing their sight.

It costs £4 million a year to run RNIB's Talking Book Service with subscribers paying up to £79 to join - but this doesn't cover the full amount needed to run it.

A range of fundraising events are taking place in Bromley for the charity which offers 19,000 titles in audio format.

The First Green Street Green Guides, in Orpington, held a "sleepover" on Friday (October 19) where they read each other their favourite bed-time stories while drinking hot chocolate and eating marshmallows while a Mad Hatters Tea Party is being held at Queen Elizabeth House, in Southborough Road, Bickley, on Friday (October 26).

Margaret Theobald, 60, of St Paul’s Square, Bromley, has used the "marvellous" Talking Books service since 1970.

One of 39,000 users, she was born partially sighted and went completely blind aged 16.

The retired physiotherapist said: "The service makes a fantastic difference to my life and really widens my horizons.

"I go on literature holidays to discuss books and the service helps me with this because I read such a range of things."

Former copywriter Brock Smith, 84, of Barham Close, in Bromley agrees.
He said: "When you can’t watch the television, it’s great to have something to put on to listen to.

"In fact, it is often difficult to switch the books off because they are so good. It’s a wonderful thing to have."

Richard Groves, 67, of South View, in Bromley worked as a policeman for 36 years before he lost his sight and now listens to five or six books each month.

He said: "For blind people visual entertainment is no longer possible and for me, it makes such a difference.

"They often have famous actors reading the books and it’s like you’re there, in the room with them."

RNIB's chief executive, Lesley-Anne Alexander said: "The blind and partially sighted people that use our Talking Book service describe it as a lifeline.

"I would urge anyone that can, to join us during Read for RNIB Day throughout October and help raise much needed funds so we can provide more blind and partially sighted people with the reading services they desperately need."

More about Talking Books

• RNIB's official Talking Book service began in 1935.

• The first Talking Books were recorded on 12-inch discs made from shellac.

• Each side lasted 25 minutes so a novel would fit onto 10 double sided records.

• One of the first titles to be sent out was Agatha Christie’s  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

• Returned CDs are recycled - they are granulated and reused to make other things such as flowerpots or, recently, for a road building scheme in China.

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