Listening Books Charity Provides Escape for Hospital Listeners

When libraries and bookstores closed their doors in March last year, people with illnesses and disabilities lost many accessible provisions which allow them to sink their teeth into a good book.

For that reason, one charity has doubled its efforts to help keep those pages turning, by extending their audiobook lending service.

Listening Books who have over 100.000 members across the nation have been working in schools and hospitals.

In a telephone interview, Radio Clatterbridge’s Steve Evans spoke with Claire Bell, the Deputy Membership and PR Manager for Listening Books about the power of listening to books.

With over 9,000 titles on offer, Claire explained how Listening Book’s audio library started from humble beginnings.

Credit: Listening Books

“We started in 1959 by a lady called Norma Skemp,” Claire told Radio Clatterbridge. “A car accident left her with severe – but not total – sight loss.

“She found that there wasn’t enough support for those who couldn’t access books or printers because of various disabilities and illnesses. Other charities didn’t cover them at the time, so she started Listening Books.”

Norma’s dedication to accessible literature was undoubtedly timely.  At the current time of writing, around 11 million people living in the UK have some form of disability or illness.

For many, this means making vital adjustments to make reading materials accessible – and for some, Listening Books might just be the ticket.

“We support anyone in the UK with an illness, disability, learning difficulty or mental health condition, that impacts on their ability to read or hold a book,” Claire explained to presenter Steve Evans.

“We support anyone in the UK with an illness, disability, learning difficulty or mental health condition, that impacts on their ability to read or hold a book,” Claire explained.

“We’re always striving to find more members, maybe reach those people that maybe could benefit from access to audiobooks. Maybe have not heard about, or they are not sure whether they enjoy audiobooks, but they may be missing that physical option of holding a book and reading.”

In response to the pandemic, Listening Books took steps to keep their vital services running, such as loaning tablets or providing CD services to those without internet services.

Best of all, the service has already had an immense impact on thousands of people. Claire told Steve how audiobooks help listeners to ‘escape’:

“We support people who are in hospitals, so children who are learning, they’re still going to school. Even though they may be dying in a hospital, they get some tablets, and they can listen to a lot of our educational titles. I think that has been unique because many academic titles for children and schools are not available in audio.

“It’s a great alleviation of loneliness if you’re on your own, in hospital and you’re not seeing family. It’s also great for consciousness, general escapism, and you can close your eyes listen to a book and kind of get taken to a different world, a different country… that’s why it provides great mental health benefits as well.”

You can listen to Steve’s interview with Claire in the link below to learn more about Listening Books.  To learn more about becoming a member, you can visit the main website on, or call their main telephone line 020 7234 0522. 

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