This past February, two branches began hosting a new kind of book club where anyone can join, regardless of reading ability. Described as community-based literacy programs for people with developmental disABILITIES and everyone else, Next Chapter Book Clubs (NCBC) invite members to keep reading and to make friends in a supportive atmosphere.
Club meetings occur in a public space, both to visibly promote taking part in an activity that others of various abilities also do, and to encourage interactions with passers-by, who often stop to say hello or to ask how they might get involved. Clubs are led by trained facilitators and now take place in over 100 cities. Ohio alone has several chapters, with Athens as one of two main facilitator training sites.
Deborah Parsons, a local facilitator and library employee, enjoys sharing the overall NCBC experience with others. “Literacy is not just the mechanics of reading,” she said. “It is the enjoyment of gaining ideas and sharing them with others who also want a bigger life. That’s the ‘why‘ of book clubs. Book clubs are for everyone.”
Members of a Next Chapter Book Club decide how they would like their club to be run. Debbie Schmieding, who facilitates the NCBC in Athens and is the former executive director of Havar, says that members meet on a week-to-week basis and typically spend some time choosing a book together based on interests. Members then take turns reading the book aloud and receive as much help as they want. Right now, club members range in age from 18-75. According to Schmieding, sometimes they can experience an improvement in their reading after just one meeting. In her experience, club members also like coming to the library. “Two of our participants have gotten library cards, and others were excited to tell me about the resources they had discovered, like free magazines,” she said. “Havar appreciates the leadership of the library system in bringing NCBC to the county, and we are very excited about this partnership.”
Director of the public libraries Lauren Miller also noted that “to be able to offer an additional library service only makes the library system more diverse. Next Chapter is an opportunity for all of us to recognize the importance of inclusion within our communities.”
The NCBC that meets at our Nelsonville branch recently finished their first book Adalyn’s Clare about a girl and her therapy dog. To celebrate, members received certificates of completion and held a party with two special guests: a Nelsonville resident and his own therapy Border Collie.
Next Chapter Book Clubs currently meet at the Athens Public Library every Tuesday from 10:30–11:30am and at the Nelsonville Public Library every Tuesday from 1:00-2:00pm. All are welcome!