Santa Barbara Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic is creating audio books this week for disabled students in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
Volunteers for the 16th annual Record-A-Thon will tape books for blind and dyslexic students in San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The nonprofit organization hosts the nationwide event in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2.
Area Director Tim Schwartz said the organization provides assistance for people with a commonly misperceived disability.
“We know blindness is challenging, but dyslexia can be a hidden learning difference,” Schwartz said. “Even those who have it may not understand its implications or be aware that there are educational programs like ours to help them.”
Schwartz said about 16,000 people in the Tri-County area identify as either blind or dyslexic.
The program contains 62,000 volumes in its national audio library. Most of the audio books are textbooks or reading materials the State Board of Education deemed required reading. Although the program has an educational emphasis, Schwartz said the number of recorded leisure books is increasing.
“We have Harry Potter,” Schwartz said. “We even have screen plays and are interested in getting theater majors to help on these so they are not all read in one voice.”
According to Kristin Reed, RFB&D’s Development Associate and program user, it takes about 15 hours to record an elementary level textbook. Volunteers will “read-in-relay” using a tag-team method, with books covering advanced material including organic chemistry with detailed charts, graphs and equations.
Critics of RFB&D and similar programs argue that audio recordings of reading material may encourage dyslexic youths to give up on reading.
Despite concerns, Reed said the program only supplements reading materials and allows students to overcome the obstacles of their learning disorder.
“I am dyslexic and I started using RFB&D’s services in junior high and onward,” Reed said. “Now, I have my master’s in Human Services. I do not think this program is ‘reading for students.’ It is giving them a tool that helps them learn more effectively.”
Doug Sprei, RFB&D’s Director of Media Relations, said the organization’s “multi-sensory learning” techniques have given a number of students the confidence to continue their education.
“Millions of people do not read print maybe as you and I do, but have lots of potential and can be very productive in our society,” Sprei said. “It amazes me to meet so many brilliant people who would have been held back academically without multi-sensory learning programs. Just give them the tools to succeed and they flourish.”
According to Schwartz, volunteers are major contributors for the organization. The Santa Barbara RFB&D chapter had roughly 200 volunteers who logged 15,000 hours last year.
Sprei estimated the RFB&D had approximately 6,000 volunteers participate nationwide in last year’s Record-A-Thon.
To participate in the Record-A-Thon, held Feb. 28 through March 5, contact Kristin Reed at (805) 318-6906 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a recording time.