As with many things, it started with a tweet. Thirty-four year old Andrew Bailey, who has Friedreich’s ataxia – a degenerative disease which stopped him being able to read 15 years ago – put a sign in a bookshop looking for someone to read to him. Having spotted the note, Dec Munro, from Crouch End in North London, uploaded it to Twitter accompanied by a short caption: ‘This note is at Foyles on the South Bank. Please do RT it.’ The photo soon went viral, with over 1000 retweets and was soon picked up by a number of news channels, including the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
As a frequent user of twitter – due in part to my job and in part to my book blog – I was just one of a number of people who saw the note. Given my love for literature and my voracious reading habit, I couldn’t imagine what it must be like for Andrew to have been unable to read for almost half his life. It was thus that with a degree of trepidation – having never done anything similar before – I got in contact with Andrew, explaining that I’d like to visit him. A meeting was quickly arranged and yesterday I travelled to Nunhead to see him where I read Falling Angels by Tracey Chevalier; one of many books that adorned his shelves – as requested by Andrew.
Andrew spoke of his love for John Grisham and his surprise at the number of people that had been in contact after putting the note in Foyles; explaining that previously when he had advertised for a reader, he’d had just a few replies. I’m not sure of the exact amount of people who have offered to read to him since his note first appeared on Twitter but he certainly seemed happy with the outcome – if a little tired from all the attention.
For someone who gets a great deal of joy from reading, it was a very humbling experience, doing what little I could to pass that pleasure on to someone like Andrew, who shares my love for books. And if nothing else, I’m sure this tale that began with Andrew and was made viral by Dec Munro will have a happy ending; and it will be one that involves an awful lot of books.