Richard Reiman, founder of Imagination Storybooks, is dedicated to making children’s books accessible for all children. Reiman created the not-for-profit company in 2019 in order to create and distribute children’s books with audio description for blind and low vision children to enjoy. Some books even include captions and ASL for children who are hearing impaired. The mission, Richard said, fills a gap in children’s literature that exists for over five million blind, deaf, and neurodiverse children with special learning challenges.
Richard began his career as a guide and racing instructor for visually impaired skiers, later becoming a volunteer narrator for Learning Ally, a major producer of audiobooks for the blind. Aware that he had a natural gift with his voice, he began a successful career in radio news that spanned 35 years. However, when faced with retirement, Richard decided that was not an option.
Instead, he drew on his passion and past experiences to create Imagination Storybooks to bring the full experience of illustrated stories to children who can’t experience them independently.
Since its launch in 2019, Richard has narrated and produced hundreds of independently-published audiobooks. Soon after, his Imagination Storybooks had its own channel on The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), which provides free access for families with at least one child with a disability. As if Richard isn’t busy enough, he launched a podcast called “The Audiobook Wizard” that is available both on the Imagination Storybook website and on Spotify. Richard was even awarded the Davey Award for best inclusive podcast.
What makes Imagination Storybooks so magical is that all the books are voiced by real voices rather than automated. Richard believes it makes a huge difference in both quality and connection. A large part of the narration, production, distribution and networking is done by Richard himself, though he has created a team that is reflective of those for whom he creates.
Most of the team members on Imagination Storybooks are blind or low vision themselves, and therefore value the work that Richard is striving to achieve. Richard speaks fondly of his team, especially when it comes to the collaboration and support among them. He also appreciates the excitement the team shares when it comes to creating work they are proud of. Imagination Storybooks is a volunteer based organization meaning most of his team participate in narrating and voiceovers solely because they love it. Moving forward, Richard hopes to offer “Voices in Sight,” a workshop that hires blind or low vision actors in order to provide them opportunities to learn about voiceover work.
Richard first put Imagination Storybooks on the map when he turned the childhood classic “Winnie the Pooh,” into an accessible book for children with no or low vision. Richard funded this project through a successful Kickstarter, and even voiced Winnie the Pooh himself.
Its popularity was so wide-spread that Richard created a “Winnie the Pooh Post,” available through Imagination Storybook’s weekly newsletter. Richard’s most recent project, the Wizard of Oz, is a testament to outstanding creativity. It is in production now and will feature an all-blind and low-vision cast including Bruce Horak, who shared his story with Know the Glow.
Hoark’s accolades include playing the blind alien on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Aria Mia Loberti, who stars in the upcoming Netflix series based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book “All the Lights We Cannot See,” also performs in The Wizard of Oz. We at Know the Glow are very excited for Richard and his team and anxiously wait for its release.
On March 1, Richard will launch a subscription membership called “The Storybook Club” on the Imagination Storybook. The membership will be priced at $9.99 a month or $99 annually. However, the subscription is free for parents with children that have an identified disability.
Membership will provide subscribers full access to beautiful picture books with rich description of the illustrations (AD), sign language interpretation (ASL), closed captions as well as braille files and with one new book title added each week. This is an incredible opportunity not only for parents, but also for teachers. It would be a valuable asset to any education department and provide a valuable tool for language acquisition in the school settings. Richard’s team will also soon offer Spanish versions of books. “If you give a Mouse a Cookie,” will be the first book offered in this format.
As this nonprofit organization continues to expand its reach into the world of inclusiveness, we at KnowTheGlow can’t wait to see what comes next. We highly recommend joining the Imagination Storybooks newsletter and following their journey on social media to explore all the magic this organization has to offer. Richard has truly created something special and is a true inspiration to us all. As Richard often says, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
He is proving that statement to be quite true.