Reading A Christmas Carol with Low Vision

Over the years, I’ve maintained a holiday tradition with, “A Christmas Carol.” In fact, some in my family might tell you it’s a bit of an obsession, as Christmas rolls around. I love reading the book and watching reruns of the older versions of the movie, like the 1951 B&W  “A Christmas Carol,” featuring Alastair Sim, or the first film version with sound, from 1935, “Srrooge.”

At one time, before the advent of YouTube and streaming on-demand, this meant scouring the TV listings to find when these were being broadcast, which was often late at night Christmas Eve. As technology changed, I bought VHS cassettes, and later, DVDs of these movies when I could find them. Now, of course, they’re readily available whenever I want thanks to YouTube.

Like the videos, reading “A Christmas Carol,” has also changed with technology over the years. My well-worn hardcover print version of Dickens’ tale rests snugly on a bookshelf, where it’s been for many years. Standard print became increasingly difficult for me to read about 20 years ago and required a handheld magnifier or video magnifier. After trying to read the book once or twice with a handheld magnifier I looked for a better alternative, and found it, with electronic text. Project Gutenberg was one of the first to offer a copy of “A Christmas Carol,” which I downloaded and put on a handheld laptop, over 20 years ago. I made the text larger and formatted it so I could read the book easily using the up and down arrow keys.

Fast forward several years and a subscription to Bookshare and National Library Service (NLS) Talking Books, and there are more options for reading than ever before! Bookshare, like Project Gutenberg, has an electronic text version of “A Christmas Carol,” that can be read using a wide variety of apps on the computer, tablet, or smartphone. I downloaded my copy to the VoiceDream Reader app on an iPad. This app offers so many options for text size, contrast, and a built-in screen reader if I just want to hear it read out loud. Chances are, if I want to listen to it, rather than read it visually, I’ll open the narrated version, I downloaded from NLS BARD on the BARD Mobile app, also on my iPad. This version is narrated by a professional reader and can be far more engaging than using a screen reader, when just reading for pleasure.

As an avid reader over the years, I confess there was a time when I worried that some of my traditions, like reading “A Christmas Carol,” or many of my other literary favorites might not be possible if my vision declined. I’m delighted to realize this holiday season that I have so many reading and viewing options available, the challenge is not in reading, but rather just finding the time for my obsession… or rather, my annual tradition of reveling in Scrooge’s transformation on Christmas Eve.

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