Dr. Nina Ghiselli: Rediscovery the Bookworn
When I was a child, I read for fun. It was difficult and sometime laborious because of my learning disability, but I did it. Around 8th grade, reading became more of a chore, something I had to do instead of something I did for fun. From that time on, I would read one or two books a year for enjoyment. Now don't get me wrong. I do read. I have a doctorate, was in higher education for eight and a half years, and did research for my dissertation, but reading complicated my learning. It was something over and above what I already had to process. Reading always seemed like a good idea but it took extra time and energy. I have always been envious of friends who can read for pleasure. It always seemed like a great way to relax but every time I attempted to read I would get frustrated, bored or fall asleep.
I recently discovered a portable device called the ClassMate Reader. It is a hand held device in which you can transfer downloaded books. The ClassMate Reader can read these books aloud while letting you read along. It is also possible to navigate through the contents of these books. It is different from the books on tape that I would oftentimes use as an undergraduate student because it not only has an audio version of the text but it also includes the written text of material obtained from bookshare.org. On top of offering both a visual and auditory mode, it is also portable. In the past, I used my laptop computer to read aloud using programs like WYNN, Kurzweil, and Read Please, but I did not find myself reading for pleasure. I felt that I was tied to a computer and between the expense of a laptop and the short battery life; this did not seem like the best alternative to a book. The ClassMate Reader is portable enough that I have read while walking, during my lunch hour, commuting on the bus, or sitting on the beach. All the places I have imagined myself reading, but always felt it was too difficult for me to do. Through this process I have rediscovered the joy of reading.
As a therapist, I am trained to self-reflect. Being introduced to the ClassMate Reader has given me an opportunity to look at reading in a different way. Before the ClassMate Reader, I read for professional development in order to keep up with my profession or to teach a class. I figured that the ClassMate Reader would facilitate these objectives. I also thought that reading fiction was a waste of time. There did not seem to be a purpose in it because it could not be applied to my professional goals and the amount of time required was extraneous. However, since getting the ClassMate Reader, my perspective on the matter has changed dramatically. I now read for enjoyment and complete the books I start. I read all kinds of books because I want to experience the setting, characters and plot. I have read about women from different times, places and occupations. I have read books that I only thought I would be able to access through movies (e.g. The Joy Luck Club, The Age of Innocence, and Sense and Sensibility). I read books that I thought sounded interesting but knew I would never otherwise get through like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a 500-page novel that I read in 4 days. I read when I wake, when I go to sleep, when I eat, when I am waiting for my espresso. I feel the same liberation that people with physical disabilities describe when they have gone from a manual wheelchair to a self-guided electric one. I no longer feel restricted by the time a book will take to read, the print, or the necessity of reading. I am able to read anything as long as it is in electronic format. Currently I am accessing many materials from bookshare.org and enjoy having the ability to navigate the contents of books by page, chapter or time. It is so wonderful that the services provided by BookShare.org are now free for people with print disability attending school.
Having the ability to read how I want has opened the world of literature. I am now able to explore the world of the bookworm I didn't have access to before.
Psychologist and Educator Nina Ghiselli
Nina Ghiselli, PsyD, is the system-wide director of disability services and adjunct faculty at Alliant International University and a psychologist in private practice. She also teaches courses at U.C. Berkeley Extension and Argosy University and consults with schools and agencies on how to make their programs more accessible to people with disabilities. Dr. Ghiselli teaches courses on disability law, application to the clinical population, effective teaching, and diversity. Her clinical work focuses on adults with disabilities.