Reviving the joy of reading for people living with dementia

Four beloved classics – Sherlock Holmes, Little Women, Katherine Mansfield’s Short Stories and Poetry for the Restless Heart – have been carefully adapted for people living with cognitive impairments such as dementia.

The books aim to re-kindle the love of reading in people who might otherwise struggle to read. ‘It’s about helping people re-discover the joy of doing something they once loved, especially those who have been avid readers”, says Dr Sally Rimkeit.

The idea of adapting classic novels was the brainchild of Dr Sally Rimkeit, psycho-geriatrician at Capital and Coast District Health Board, and Dr Gillian Claridge, an applied linguist and Dean of the Institute of the Pacific United New Zealand.

Together the women set up a small publishing company, Dovetale Press, to provide dementia-friendly books and have finalised a pilot project on reading and dementia.

Adapting these classic works requires keeping the essence of the works while making them as accessible as possible. “What was useful was chunking or shortening the storyline and using memory aides to help the reader keep track of the characters and plot,” says Dr Rimkeit.

The books were developed following a pilot project which aimed to understand how barriers to reading could be reduced. 

The results of the pilot indicated that people living with dementia, even severe dementia, maintain a sophisticated command and appreciation of language. Readers enjoyed the original style and rhythm, and did not want the text oversimplified like a children’s book, which can be demeaning.

This series of four classic adaptations, sponsored by Bupa NZ, will be officially launched on 10 November 2016.

Dr Rimkeit and Dr Claridge will extend the pilot project to an international, randomised-control trial, also supported by Bupa, in 2017.

Bupa’s Global Director of Dementia Care, Professor Graham Stokes, is Academic Advisor for research into the use of the books and has over 20 years’ experience specialising in dementia care.

Prof Stokes says, “Whether the books are read by individuals at home, as a read-aloud activity in a day centre or with a book club, I hope they can provide a meaningful activity for many and a useful resource for libraries in helping to create dementia-friendly communities”.

Adapting books for the needs of people with cognitive impairments fits with Bupa’s Person First approach to care which puts the individual and their needs first.

This is especially important in the care of those with dementia and focuses on making an emotional connection with the person in addition to caring for their medical needs.

The books will be used in Bupa’s 60 care homes throughout New Zealand and it is hoped that libraries will also use them as a step to becoming dementia-friendly. The books are available to purchase from Dovetale Press

The new adaptations are

  • A Dovetale Press Adaptation Sherlock Holmes:The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle  Arthur Conan Doyle;
  • A Dovetale Press Adaptation Little Women  Louisa May Alcott;
  • A Dovetale Press: A Dovetale Press Selection  Poetry for the Restless Heart;
  • A Dovetale Press Adaptation The Garden Party and The Doll’s House Katherine Mansfield;

Following the 2015 pilot study, the Dovetale Press adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, has been updated and is available as a second edition.




For more information please contact:   

Lisa Chambers, Head of Communications

Tel: (09) 985 9704 Ext 59704
Mob: 027 271 7719

About Dovetale PressDovetale Press carefully constructs books for the reader who might find standard books difficult because of certain health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, other types of dementia, or stroke. Classic literature has been specially selected and adapted by an applied linguist, Dr Gillian Claridge, and a psychogeriatrician,

Dr B. Sally Rimkeit, to enhance the joy of reading for people with cognitive impairment. We support dementia-friendly communities and access to dementia-friendly books and book clubs at public libraries. Books from Dovetale Press are used in an international study of reading and dementia.

About Bupa
Bupa’s purpose is longer, healthier, happier lives.


As a leading global health and care company, we offer health insurance, medical subscription and other health and care funding products; we run care homes, retirement villages, primary care, diagnostic and wellness centres, hospitals and dental clinics. We also provide workplace health services, home healthcare, health assessments and long-term condition management services.


In New Zealand, Bupa is the largest aged care provider with three aged care businesses including rest homes and hospitals, retirement villages and personal medical alarms, dental centres and a rehabilitation business, touching the lives of more than 14,000 New Zealanders. 


We have 32m customers in 190 countries. We employ 84,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, New Zealand and Chile, as well as Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, India, Thailand and the USA. 

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