Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. Alzheimers New Zealand estimates that 80% of New Zealanders are affected by dementia in some way, and that by 2050, more than 170,000 Kiwis will be living with dementia. The Alzheimers NZ Dementia Declaration states: ‘Our Lives Matter. We ALL want to be seen, valued, appreciated and loved for who we are.’
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Where did Philip’s adapted books come from? Well, in order to support people like Philip, in 2015, we, Gill and Sally, joined skills as a psycho-geriatrician and an applied linguist to set up Dovetale Press to adapt classical literature for people living with dementia and other disabilities. With the generous help of grants from Bupa Care and Ryman, we were able to publish adaptations of four novels and a collection of poetry. The Dovetale Press series includes adaptations of:
o Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
o Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
o Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Arthur Conan Doyle
o The Garden Party & The Doll's House, Katherine Mansfield and
o Poetry for the Restless Heart, editors' selection
Dementia Auckland GM of Operations, Barbara Fox, deeply believes that reconnecting people living with dementia with their beloved books in their own community library will motivate people to build connections that will flourish as the numbers of people living with dementia increases. Barbara states ‘Libraries are the centers of our communities, and books that are accessible to people living with dementia deepens that sense of community. I encourage all libraries to reach out to the dementia provider in their area for education and support to build these book groups across New Zealand.’
People living with dementia may have difficulties reading standard texts because of problems with memory, which can be particularly frustrating if reading was a favourite pastime for them. Specific challenges that they face in reading are daunting amounts of text, fonts which are too small or not distinct enough, insufficient white space on a page, and difficulty in following the thread of a plot. It can be challenging to understand a story if sentences are very long, if there is a lot of descriptive ‘padding’, or if pronouns are separated from the nouns to which they refer by a lengthy sentence or a page turn.
However, Dovetale Press holds the philosophy that people living with dementia do not need to be deprived of the joy of reading simply because they can no longer tackle standard books. Making New Zealand libraries more dementia-friendly is also a focus for local Alzheimers and Dementia organisations across the country, who are coordinating programmes to make these spaces as accessible as possible for people living with dementia.
Although parts of the texts have been cut, this has in no way dumbed down the rich, vibrant language of the novels, and they retain as far as possible the authors’ original language. The poems in the poetry collection are not adapted, but have been selected from poetry likely to be known to the intended audience, or to appeal to them. All the books are enhanced by beautiful illustrations, some of which were included in the original publications. Each book is 64 pages, with large print and white contrast paper.
Our goal is to bring back the joy of reading to those who, because of dementia and its stigma, have been deprived of a good read. Our Kickstarter campaign promises, if it reaches its target goal, to supply 20 libraries in New Zealand each with 6 sets of 5 beautifully produced and illustrated books, to support communities in setting up their own book groups for people living with dementia. That’s 600 books given to NZ libraries in all. If the campaign reaches 200% of the target goal, then 1200 books will be given away. The campaign also allows other public libraries and NGOs to access a set of books, for setting up a book group, at a subsidized cost.
About the editors of Dovetale Press:
Gill currently lectures part-time in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at a tertiary institute in New Zealand, where her research focus is on reading. She has taught and learned languages for many years, and is an IELTS examiner, an APTIS examiner and also a moderator for Trinity College London's Certificate of TESOL qualification.
She has a Masters degree in Russian Language and Literature from St Andrews University, Scotland, a post-graduate Certificate of Education specializing in language teaching from St Martin's College, Lancaster, UK, and a Doctorate in Applied Linguistics from the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where she won the Victoria University English Speaking Union Award in 2011. She spent 5 years as a Dean of the Faculty of International Studies at the International Pacific College in Palmerston North, New Zealand, before retiring from that post to spend more time with her grand-children, and on her work with Sally, producing books adapted for people living with dementia.