Alexandrians Promote Talking Books

Alexandrians Promote Talking Books

Chet Avery, a commissioner of the Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities, and his 8-year-old granddaughter, Katherine Anne Avery, are featured on the National Campaign Poster for the Talking Books Program, a recorded book service for the blind and print impaired persons.

“I like being in a picture on a poster with my blind grandpa because I like to read,” Katherine said. “I hope everyone will like to read, too.”

Alexandria has 255 people, who use this little-known service, according to Loni McCaffrey of Alexandria’s Talking Book Program, headquartered in the Beatley Library. McCaffrey emphasized her gratitude to the U.S. Postal Service, who deliver the bulky packages, and pay the postage for this program, which is sponsored by the Library of Congress.

“Many visually impaired people do not realize the talking book program is available. We are trying to spread the word to all about this program,” McCaffrey said.

This program is free to the recipient of the books. McCaffrey said if Americans travel abroad, they can still participate in the program. Nationally, over three million people could use this program.

Chet Avery said that one can become certified to use this program by a nurse, their physician or McCaffrey.

The person will receive a tape-playing machine and a listing of new books bi-monthly.

The City of Alexandria takes pride in what McCaffrey, Karen Russell, the manager of the Beatley Central Library, and Patrick O’Brien, director of the Alexandria City Library Program have accomplished.

How did Alexandria’s own Chet and Katherine Avery come to be featured on the national poster?

McCaffrey attended a meeting at the National Library Service, heard that the search was on for photogenic people for the poster. Never to be outdone, she pushed for the Averys to be featured; the poster tells the rest of the story.

One interesting point of serendipity is that Chet Avery’s wife Sabra, had a grandmother who was friends with one of Mark Twain’s daughters. Twain would often read aloud to the children from his writing for that day, in much the same way that books are read aloud to the talking book users today.

Now Sabra Avery’s granddaughter’s picture is on a national poster, encouraging others to take advantage of being read to by professional actors.

The program is thankful to Thomas Grooms, public affairs director of an ABC radio station, 105.9 Smooth Jazz, for his public service announcement supporting this national campaign during his popular program from midnight to 5 a.m.

Volunteers are needed to go to private homes, train the consumers on using the tape-playing machine that comes with the tapes, how to return the books to the library, and read the bi-monthly listing of books. Business owners can help by displaying posters describing the Talking Books Program.

Spread the word to those who may benefit from this program.

Contact McCaffrey at the Beatley Library at 703-519-5911 for more information or to volunteer.