Barbara McNeir is a “frustrated actress.” She loves drama and being on the stage but she never made a career out of it. She also loves to read. As a resident at Buckner Parkway Place in Houston, she has found a creative way to combine her passions by reading out loud to members of the retirement community’s book club who are unable to see the print of books.
“I have always wanted to be on the stage and occasionally I have been,” McNeir said. “I enjoy drama and to read out loud gives me the opportunity to use that skill as well as the pleasure it brings to myself and to the others who are listening.”
The book club at Parkway Place meets monthly. Many of the members are avid readers, and it’s often difficult to choose a book no one in the group has ever read.
When the group chose to read “When Books Went to War,” Barbara started reading to other members.
“One of our book club members is legally blind and unable to see the print at all,” McNeir said. “When she was told it didn’t come in audio version, I could tell on her face she was disappointed. So I said, ‘I’ll read it. I have to read it anyway so I’ll read it out loud to her.’ There were a couple of others who have macular degeneration and they can read it, but it is difficult so why not get a group and have fun. So I did.”
McNeir read out loud to those interested in listening to the book three times a week for about an hour or for however long her voice would hold out.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Jeannette Eaton, a Parkway Place resident, said about listening to McNeir read out loud.
Eaton has macular degeneration and is unable to read print anymore, but reading has always been a part of her life. Now, she chooses to listen to books.
Normally, McNeir would add drama to her reading by creating the different voices, but she said sometimes the book’s subject manner doesn’t allow for it.
“’When Books Went to War’ was not a novel,” McNeir said. “But we did do another program at Christmas time, and we got four of the residents including myself to read out loud a version of the ‘Christmas Story’ and it was an English version. We had great fun preparing it and presenting it to the residents.”
Carolyn Randall, co-director of the book club, thinks the book club is a great way to add some depth to an activity that is enjoyed by so many.
“It’s a very comfortable feeling,” she said. “I like to meet people who like the same thing I do, and it’s fun to talk about books over and beyond the books we read as a group.”
The book club is just one of the many clubs and activities offered at Parkway Place, which is exactly why McNeir chose to move in just before her retirement so she could enjoy all the programs available immediately.
“I enjoy the activities,” McNeir said. “I’m really getting into them. We’re going to have watercolor class this month; I’m looking forward to that. I just came from a stretching class, and I do water aerobics. It’s wonderful. Retirement is great.”
Retirement has also given McNeir more time to read.
“That was one of the things I was looking forward to in retirement to be able to read all those books I bought thinking that one day I’d get around to reading them,” McNeir said. “We have this great library here, and I have lots of other friends who have read good books that they will recommend.”