Next Chapter Book Club helps adults with disabilities find community in books
Madi Christiansen loves Monday afternoons. Each week, she walks into Lucky Ones Coffee in the Park City Library toting her lunch. When she sees some familiar faces, she greets them, takes a seat and picks up a book identical to the ones the rest of the people in her club have in their hands.
Christiansen is one of a handful of members in the Park City Next Chapter Book Club, a group made up of individuals with different developmental disabilities who meet weekly to read books. The group formed two years ago.
So far, the group has read seven books, said Kate Mapp, adult services librarian at the library. The members get to select the books and, after they finish, the library hosts a viewing party featuring the movie version of the book, which is one of Christiansen’s favorite parts.
Next Chapter Book Club is a nationwide organization that launched in Ohio in 2002. The goal was to help adults with disabilities continue to improve their literacy skills, but also provide them with a community of individuals that they could meet with regularly.
Jaret Winn, one of the members of the Park City group, said that the club is helping him boost his reading and communication skills. The members take turns reading sections of the book out loud as the others follow along.
Winn said he enjoys coming to the meetings each week to read books such as “Charlotte’s Web,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Kelsey Delacenserie said that she feels happy when she comes and is surrounded by people she knows and cares about. There are six members in the group.
Mapp said that the Next Chapter group was first formed in Park City by the Utah Developmental Disabilities Council. When she discovered that they were meeting at the library, she asked to be a part of it. Now, she is the coordinator of the group.
Gerd Holmsen Aguilar, a volunteer with Friends of the Library, also helps run the meetings. She became involved because, as a former educator, she wanted to help people in the community with their education.
One of her favorite parts is seeing how supportive the members are of each other.
“I find it interesting to work with them because they support each other and I can see the progress from it,” she said. “They gain from each other.”
“No matter how little they can read, they cheer each other on,” Mapp added.
She said that her favorite part of the club has been developing friendships with the members of the group. Before they start reading, they each talk about what they did over the weekend or other news that they want to share about their lives.
Mapp and Holmsen Aguilar said that they have seen the members become more fluid in their reading, which makes the volunteer work they do even more fulfilling.
“We’ve seen huge successes in the literacy rates,” Mapp said.
The program is funded by the library and the Friends of the Library’s annual book sale.
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