People living with dementia have difficulties reading standard texts because of problems with memory, which can be particularly frustrating if reading was a favourite pastime for them pre-dementia. 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 sometimes separated from the nouns to which they refer by a lengthy sentence or a page turn. However, Dovetale Press editors Dr Sally Rimkeit, a psychogeriatrician, and Dr Gillian Claridge, an applied linguist, believe 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.
In the Dovetale Press series, Drs Rimkeit and Claridge have addressed these challenges for readers with memory impairment. They have created versions of the classics in which text not essential to the stories has been removed, shortening them considerably and clarifying the plot. The books are lighter than standard novels and easy to hold, thus manageable by the physically frail. The referents in the stories have been made very clear, and the pages are designed so that each double page can be read as a single entity, which means that if a person cannot remember what happened on the previous pages, the reading can still be a pleasurable experience. In order to prompt imperfect memories, there are ‘cast lists’ for each novel, and where appropriate a summary is provided after each chapter.
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.