Tayside and Central Scotland

Stirling teenager lends sight to librarian who can't read

Ailsa and Lorna
Image caption Ailsa reads to Lorna after Lupus made it difficult for her to read herself

A school pupil from Stirling has given sight back to a librarian who lost her ability to read.

Lorna Burnett developed Lupus in her 40s and as a result now can't read a book without hurting her eyes.

Dry eyes and burning pain when reading has made her stop picking up books altogether.

But being introduced to a scheme where schoolchildren become the eyes of the reader has restored her love of reading and improved her social interaction.

Ms Burnett was forced to retire early when her condition made working impossible.

Her illness meant she had to stay at home a lot and she described that, along with mobility issues, as "soul destroying".

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Kaye Adams Programme: "I have no saliva and no tears. If I read for any length of time my eyes begin to hurt and it's painful. Even watching TV is very painful.

"I used to read a novel in a couple of days. My head was never out of a book. Lupus changed all that."

'We chat too much'

Through her local Library, St Ninian's in Stirling, she was introduced to the Reading Friends programme which matches up volunteers from schools with people who can no longer read.

The pairs meet up in the library to read books and discuss them.

Ms Burnett's reading buddy was 15-year-old Ailsa.

Ailsa said: "My English teacher asked if anyone was interested. I love to read and thought it would be an opportunity to get to know other people.

"Lorna and I both lost our original partners so we were put together."

The partnership has been a great success and the two have become friends.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The retired librarian would get through a novel every two days before she stopped reading

Ms Burnett said: "Ailsa would read to me. I chose a book and she would come along and read it to me. But we have only got through two books so far because we end up chatting too much. We have read two historical novels.

"Ailsa and I have a close bond and get on very well. We have a break and have a coffee or a juice or a biscuit and we start gossiping."

Ruth Sheppard, faculty head of languages and literacy at Bannockburn High helped set the group up.

She said: "We have wonderful young people at our school and we wanted to get them into the community. It has been fantastic to see them blossom as well as improving their literacy and social skills."

It is also encouraging young people to use their local library more, and appreciate its value.

She said: "Now it is becoming more natural to work with the library.

"It is not just a place you can only sit and be very quiet. It's not just a study space, there is technology in there to help them.

"They are meeting community members like Lorna that they are making friendships with and library staff can help them not only with education but outside as well."

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