March is National Reading Month

By Anna Lenhart, MPH

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March is designated as National Reading Month. The primary audience for Dr. Seuss’ books is young children, but his writings have insight for adults, too.  As he said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

Reading is a key component of education and professional development. It is also a popular recreational activity that has immediate and long-lasting health benefits. Scientific studies have associated reading with increased cognitive function, memory, vocabulary, empathy and decreased levels of stress. Reading before bed can help improve sleep quality and may also help to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

New Editions has hosted a monthly book club for interested employees since 2013. In addition to the individual benefits of reading, this has been a wonderful team building opportunity for the company. It brings together employees from different contracts, ages and backgrounds to talk about a shared experience through reading. New Editions is not alone in the business world – more and more companies are taking note of the potential benefits of hosting book club meetings for their employees. A February 2016 article in the Harvard Business Review, “Why Businesspeople Should Join Book Clubs” highlighted the following mutually beneficial outcomes for employers and their team members:

  • Build and reinforce relationships among team members
  • Develop relationships based on shared learning
  • Learn and benefit from diverse viewpoints
  • Discussing content in a less formal setting can make individuals more comfortable and confident in professional settings
  • Regular reading can sharpen intelligence and improve commination and emotional intelligence

While the idea of reading may conjure images of settling in to an oversized chair and turning the pages of a bound book, advances in technology and assistive technology have changed the way people interact with the written word. As a result, more people than ever are now able to enjoy and benefit from reading - regardless of disability, age or life stage. New Editions celebrates these advances because we have employees who need them.

The first major advancement in increasing access to reading came in 1824, when braille was introduced as a tactile means of communication for individuals with low or no vision. While braille remains an important part of making information accessible (and is a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act), new devices and innovations provide individuals with more options than ever before, many of which are now universally and commercially available and used beyond the disability community.

Dedicated E-readers and E-book applications on tablets are a great example of a commercial product with wide-reaching benefits for diverse audiences, including people with disabilities and older adults. Using this technology, individuals can increase font size, change lighting on the screen based on preferences or sensitives, flag or highlight sections to help with memory and look up key phrases or words to get a better understanding of message. Audiobooks, which had their beginnings with more cumbersome books on tape, have now gone digital and allow users to listen wherever they might by through their smart phone or device.

Screen readers are software programs that use speech synthesizers to help individuals with visual limitations read information from their computer or laptop. Page turners devices or tools that are available in high and low tech options to help individuals with physical limitations turn the pages of books.

Our book club has listened to audiobooks so that we could share the same experience as our members who are blind. And because we operate AbleData, the premier database for unbiased, comprehensive information on products, solutions and resources to improve productivity and ease life’s tasks, we can direct you to a variety of assistive technology available for reading—including devices to help children with disabilities learn to read and devices for adults with disabilities to enjoy reading.

For more information about the variety of assistive technology available, visit www.AbleData.com.