WILLIAMSBURG — The Williamsburg Regional Library (WRL) has an ongoing effort to reach all members of the community, one book at a time.
WRL’s Next Chapter Book Group is a unique community-based program for adolescents and adults with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Youth Services Librarian, Linda Niedzwick, has been running the group since the fall of 2019.
While the program was held virtually during the pandemic, WRL has resumed holding it in-person as restrictions have been lifted.
Niedzwick said that reading skills are not necessary and that the program has included participants considered non-verbal.
The group is currently made up of six teens and adults with disabilities, and Niedzwick said that she hopes to add more.
“Right now, we are reading ‘Disney’s Adventure Stories’ and our next book will be ‘Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol, The Haunted House Next Door’,” she said.
Each participant gets to keep their own copy of the books, free of charge.
“We take turns reading from the books, so they don’t have to read the books in advance,” Niefzwick said. “We encourage social interaction and friendships during our meetings.”
Next Chapter is an international organization that began in 2002 with the mission to give members of the developmentally disabled community a safe environment to read, learn and make new friends.
From North America to Europe, groups gather in their local public libraries, book stores, or coffee shops weekly or monthly to read aloud and discuss the books with a facilitator.
According to its website, Next Chapter is the largest community-based book club program in the world. Anyone can participate, regardless of their reading level or ability.
Along with public libraries, other organizations such as social service agencies and parent groups have also joined in order to bring program into communities.
Next Chapter strives to help improve reading skills and socialization. However, unlike a traditional reading class, it focuses on reading-to-learn rather than learning-to-read.
This month’s Next Chapter Book Group will meet Saturday, June 5 at 1 p.m. at Stryker Center.
For more information, contact Linda Niedzwick at Lniedzwick@wrl.org.
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