“Joining the audio book club has given me a reason to get up in the morning”

Krystyna Jenkinson, with her guide dog Dolly, listens to a audio book at Gaywood Library in King's L

Krystyna Jenkinson, with her guide dog Dolly, listens to a audio book at Gaywood Library in King's Lynn, with Audio Book Club volunteer Mandy Ford. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

When avid reader Krystyna Jenkinson lost her sight five years ago she feared her world was falling apart.

Then someone suggested she joined the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind's audio book club in King's Lynn.

Now she is a regular at the Gaywood Library-based club, attending monthly meetings to confidently discuss and debate audio books that stretch and challenge her, re-igniting her love of literature.

The Gaywood club is one of nine run by the NNAB in Norfolk libraries and just one example of the facilities provided by the library service which are being celebrated tomorrow, National Libraries Day.

Mother-of-two Mrs Jenkinson, 63, became registered blind after losing her sight gradually as a result of diabetes, and had to give up her job with the Department of Work and Pensions in Lynn.

'I felt sorry for myself,' she said. 'I felt I was the only one this was happening to, and I wondered what life had left.

'But joining the audio book club has given me a reason to get up in the morning.

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'I was always a big reader, but I tended to stick to what I knew I would enjoy. The book club has given me new options. I'm listening to books I would never have dreamed of before and to discuss them with people once a month is wonderful.'

Mrs Jenkinson, who lives in Lynn with husband Michael and guide dog, Dolly, added: 'I would recommend the NNAB book clubs to any visually impaired person, even if it's just for the social side.

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'Joining the Gaywood club has extended my horizons and I meet people with the same disability as me. It's got me out of a rut.'

Among the books tackled by the book clubs last year are JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, The God of All Things by Arundhati Roy and The Breaker by Minette Walters.

They are ordered by the NNAB from the Buckinghamshire-based specialist audio book charity Calibre, which sends out 10 copies of each book in CD form to the nine libraries involved in the scheme.

That bill is picked up by Norfolk Library Service and is an important financial lifeline to allow the book clubs – which are led and run by NNAB volunteers - to continue.

The charity's leisure co-ordinator Mark Smith said: 'The book clubs wouldn't be possible without the support of the county council. They are an important part of the work we do to reach out to people and make them aware that they can still enjoy life despite visual impairment.

'I'm thrilled to see how much pleasure and enjoyment the clubs provide, particularly for visually impaired people in rural areas to visit their local library and meet like minded people, have a cuppa and a stimulating natter.'

Norfolk's cabinet member for communities, Margaret Wilkinson, said: 'Our libraries aim to spread the joy of books to everyone in Norfolk and these audio book clubs are a great example of this.

'Reading is an important part of so many people's lives and the audio book clubs at our libraries provide an opportunity for those with visual impairments to experience and discuss books as if they were reading them from a page.'

Nearly 60 visually impaired people are involved in the NNAB's audio book clubs, which also run at libraries in Norwich, Thetford, Watton, Aylsham, Cromer, Dereham Great Yarmouth and Diss.

For more details contact Mark Smith on 01603 629558 or email marksmith@nnab.org.uk.

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