Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Women’s History and Book Clubs

As we continue to recognize Women’s History Month, the role of women in creating book clubs can be acknowledged for the impact on reading and on “their own lives.”  The first American reading circles, precursors to today’s book clubs, arose during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Women in these groups met in classrooms, in bookstores, at homes of friends, “even while working in mills.” One notable example, a club run by Margaret Fuller, a journalist and first American female war correspondent, began meeting in Boston in 1839. A participant recalled that Fuller “’opened the book of life and helped us to read it for ourselves.’” As the chief founders of the modern book club, women have had a profound impact on the book industry, now accounting for the vast majority of fiction sales. Book clubs continue to flourish, although the roles have shifted. “Where once women joined book clubs to make up for the education they were denied, now they joined to extend the pleasures they enjoyed at college,” according to Elizabeth Long, an expert cited in The Washington Post article How women invented book clubs, revolutionizing reading and their own lives. For those with vision loss, the growth in alternative formats – from large print to audiobooks to screen readers to altering font size, contrast, and other changes made possible via technology – has made reading and book clubs more accessible. These alternatives allow readers who use large print and formats like BARD from the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) | Library of Congress and Bookshare to participate fully in book clubs.

…And A Free Offer From RDPFS for Readers of Large Print

For many years, Reader’s Digest Select Editions Large Type (SELT) books have featured expertly edited best-selling books in every volume in a format that is comfortable for people who have difficulty reading standard-sized print. Many of the selections can also be obtained in an unabridged form from BARD or Bookshare. Usually these books are available only to subscribers. However, an unexpected surplus allows us to offer a limited number of boxes of the latest volume free of charge to those interested in starting a book group. The abridged novels featured in the current volume are Let It Snow by Nancy Thayer and Dear Miss Bird by A.J. Pearce. Each box contains approximately 20 books, along with a Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation (RDPFS) guide to setting up a book club for readers with vision loss. If you are interested in receiving a box of complimentary books, please contact [email protected]. Even if you are not sure yet about setting up a book club, but would like a sample of the book, please let us know.