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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. Each book is 64 pages, on 70lb paper, and 244mm x 170mm in size.
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.
Sally is a Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist working at the Mental Health of Older Persons Service (MHSOP) at Capital and Coast District Health Board. She is a co-convenor of the Stage 1 Psychiatric Training Programme for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), through University of Otago, Wellington campus. As a Senior Research Fellow, she is clinical lead for an international programme on the value of facilitated book groups for people living with dementia. She and linguist Dr Gillian Claridge have published five dementia-friendly books, adapted from classic literature for use in this programme and for individual sale. After completing a qualitative study on how people living with younger onset dementia view facing aged care, she is the founding Board Member of the Younger Onset Dementia Australasian Trust (YODAT), a charitable trust developing age appropriate services for people living with younger onset dementia. She contributed to a late-life suicide research project, through University of Auckland, with results published with merit in the International Psychogeriatric Association Journal.
Apart from these Dovetale Press titles, Sally and Gill have co-authored the following research articles describing their reading and dementia programme in detail:
B Sally Rimkeit, Gillian Claridge. Literary Alzheimer's: A qualitative feasibility study of dementia-friendly book groups. New Zealand Library and Information Management Journal, 2018. Vol 56, Issue 2, pages 14-22.
Alyson Baker, B Sally Rimkeit, Gillian Claridge. (2018) Promoting dementia-friendly libraries: Setting up book clubs to encourage reading and community inclusiveness for people living with dementia. New Zealand Library and Information Management Journal. June 2018. Vol 57, Issue 1.
Gillian Claridge, Sally Rimkeit. Can she still read? (2018) How some people living with dementia responded to the reading experience. Proceedings of the Fourth World Congress on Extensive Reading. 2018. Vol.4, pages 266-275.