A Loving Voice: A Caregiver's Book of Read-Aloud Stories for the Elderly

Banks, C. & Rizzo, J., eds.

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn
  • Date of entry: Oct-22-2001


This varied collection of short stories and poems is unified not so much by theme as by their appropriateness to the intended listening audience--the bedridden or homebound elderly. In a brief but moving preface editor Carolyn Banks recalls her work in an adult day care center where she was expected to entertain those who were recovering from strokes or suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Reading aloud provided sometimes startling moments of contact with patients who were incapable of sustained conversation. Banks realized that while there are many story collections for children and general adult audiences, no one had done a collection for a group with these specific needs.

The collection includes 52 stories--one a week for a year--that cover a range of life situations. Not all focus on age or illness, though some do. In several a grandparent plays a crucial role in a grandchild's life. Some are set in the 1930's, 40's and 50's--periods likely to trigger memories for those now in their 70's and 80's.

Several stories focus on situations of widowhood and other losses, and some on death: Banks insists that death "is not a taboo topic." Many of the stories are comic, since, she comments, laughter is "an important response to court." All are short enough to read in a half hour or less, and "not insultingly simple."


The very existence of a book like this reasserts the value of providing alternatives to television for the elderly whose options are very limited. Those who have worked with patients and relatives whose mental and physical faculties are dwindling attest repeatedly to the fact that story invokes and evokes memory and triggers emotional identification sometimes even for the severely disoriented. The book provides a valuable tool for families who want to keep visiting their elders but feel at a loss for appropriate conversation.

The stories are engaging and enjoyable in their own right--not simplistic, but simple enough to be followed easily. Part of the book's value lies in the fact that it provides a spiritually rich alternative to television and games and a model that may and should be emulated. Banks claims that in her own work she has found that the stories bring forth lively responses even from those who are characteristically unresponsive to other forms of entertainment.



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Carolyn Banks & Janice Rizzo

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