Imagine reading for a student who needs to hear your voice in order to learn. That’s what Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic does — more than 200 local volunteers read and record books for students who struggle with reading.

In Santa Barbara, the third day of RFB&D’s 15th annual Record-a-Thon attracted many community members on Wednesday to read and record books for students who have sight or learning challenges that make reading difficult. Highlights from the weeklong event, continuing through Saturday, include:

Former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson spoke about her deep connections to Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. Her older brother lost his sight as a young man and uses recorded books to continue learning. Her husband and daughter both volunteered as readers at RFB&D. When her daughter went to Princeton University, she found that there was no local RFB&D chapter there, so she started one.

Marisa Welby-Maiani, a student at UCSB’s Graduate School of Education, in the master’s program Special Education, Disabilities and Risk Studies, has used RFB&D’s services since she was in seventh grade because of dyslexia.

“Before RFB&D, I was totally dependent upon my mom to get my homework done because I needed her to read it to me. But once I got recorded books, I was able to do my reading assignments on my own,” she said. “Being able to have my textbooks in audio format made all the difference during high school. College would never have been an option for me without RFB&D. I would never have been able to do that. Even though school is still a struggle, with the assistance of RFB&D, I have been able to succeed.”

In the future, Welby-Maiani said she plans to coordinate services for individuals and families who have disabilities.

Candice Coll, a sophomore at Laguna Blanca School, has been volunteering for RFB&D for nearly five years. She moved to Santa Barbara from Miami at age 12.

“What inspired me was that I’ve always been an avid reader, and I just thought, ‘What would my life be like without books?’ I found out that one in seven Americans has difficulty reading because of diminished site or dyslexia, and so I wanted to do something that could help so many people accomplish their educational goals and get the education that they deserve,” she said. “I volunteer almost every Saturday morning, and I either read, monitor or check previously recorded books — almost anything I’m asked — and I’m also the president of the RFB&D Club at Laguna, so I’ve organized several bake sales to help raise money for RFB&D. I’m bilingual in Spanish and I have gone to the McKinley school and helped Spanish speaking parents enroll their children in the RFB&D program and answered their questions. Volunteering for RFB&D has made me realize that we as a community can do so much to help one another, and volunteering for RFB&D is something that I hope I will do for the rest of my life.”

Randy Weiss, vice president of community relations for Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and a longtime partner of RFB&D, said, “Actively supporting RFB&D is critical in our community to give all people an equal opportunity. Through our partnership, I have met so many students who are doing amazing things in their lives, made possible through learning with recorded books. All the RFB&D volunteers are really ‘rock stars’ for their incredible contributions in making this all possible.”

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic celebrated Earth Day by recording 180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, Jeff Johnson and Chris Malloy.

Other books by local authors include Pico Iyer’s Sun After Dark and Abandon, T.C. Boyle’s newest novel, Wild Child, Chumash Ethnobotany by Jan Timbrook, Writers and their Notebooks, edited by Diana Raab, and Keep Your Skirt On by Starshine Roshell.

The Record-a-Thon continues from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Anyone can come in to help record a book. Call 805.681.0531 or e-mail

— Kathy Wertheim is interim director of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.