A new reading club is being formed by the Oswego Public Library District for those age 18 and older who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Sarah Skilton, library director, told library trustees at a recent board meeting that the program called the Next Chapter Book Club is a community-based book club for adults with special needs. She said the goal of the program is to provide social connections for readers of all skill levels.
The weekly reading sessions, to be held at both the district's Oswego and Montgomery campus libraries, will each last one hour and be led by trained library staff members, she said. She said staff members will learn how to work in teams of two to three people. They will receive special training on how to create the clubs and work with the individual club members so the program will be successful.
Skilton said they plan to start with two clubs, one to meet during the day and the other to meet in the evening. If the two clubs are successful, the staff can add more clubs as more people become interested in joining them.
She said each club should have no more eight members in the group. At their meetings, the members usually read a book together and all levels of reading will be able to participate.
More clubs will be started if more people request them, Skilton said.
"The program is adaptable to different age groups and locations," she added.
Dr. Thomas Fish, founder of the nonprofit program, said it offers community-based book clubs for adolescents and adults with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"Our members (including some who cannot read) love books for the same reasons most people do. They enjoy being transported to different worlds where they meet interesting characters and learn about exciting new things. Taking that journey with a group of friends makes it even more delightful and fun," Fish said.
The library district will be joining a growing number of organizations, including other public libraries, social service agencies and parent groups – often working in collaboration with each other, he added.
Rachel Jones, founder of a club in Ohio, said most of the people attending the programs didn't have a lot of positive experiences being in the community when they first joined the club.
"Now they learn about social interactions through the characters and story lines of the books they're reading and get to practice them with staff, customers and each other. I regularly observe them behaving in a very polite manner," Jones said.
"The Next Chapter Book Club has clubs in the U.S. as well as other countries and is hoping that one day it would be as widely available as Special Olympics," Skilton said.
For more information about the program and its founder, go to its website at nextchapterbookclub.org.