The public library is a place for everyone in the community; it’s a third space where, in addition to home and school or work, you are known and welcome.
Read-Ability for Adults with Cognitive Disabilities
The Evanston Public Library hosts the Read-Ability book group, a group for adults with cognitive disabilities, once a week. Meetings take place on Mondays from 5:00 to 6:00 pm at the Main Library, third-floor seminar room, and are grouped into three sessions a year: January through April, May through August, and September through December. Each session is devoted to one book.
During a meeting, staff and library volunteers read a part of the book aloud, and then the group discusses what was just read. This allows adults with disabilities the opportunity to participate in a book group and to explore books they might not have thought to read before. The way the group is structured allows for not only discussion, but also the ability for participants to stop and ask questions for comprehension. If there is something that doesn’t make sense, the reader will stop reading and the group will talk it through.
According to Claudia Joehl, a member of the Read-Ability group, “I am a participant in the Readability group who initially got involved through The Center for Independent Futures (CIF). I look forward to seeing what happens in the books we read and talking about it in the book club. I like being part of a group of people who like to share what they think about things. I also like the way we vote to choose the book we’ll read and that we can ask questions about things we don’t understand that we read.”
Reading is a Gift for All
The way the book group is run is different from traditional book groups and other book groups specifically targeted to adults with disabilities—it allows people to participate in the group without having to worry about reading in front of their peers. Books are selected that are of interest to the participants—they are adults, so they read books that adults will enjoy. Group members can participate as much or as little as they want, in whatever way works best for them.
Claudia’s mother, Julia, adds, “I am a fan of the Read-Ability group. I believe that the opportunity to read fiction (or any genre) is a gift that allows us to see things through the perspectives of others, particularly the various characters in the fiction. The Read-Ability group is structured so that however a participant reads, she or he is given this gift as well as the chance to hear the points of view of everyone in the group through the sharing of ideas. Listening to one another is essential to build understanding and respect for all in our community and beyond. Thank you EPL staff and volunteers for providing this accessible, friendly and supportive opportunity to share the gift of reading and all that it inspires.”
The books the group reads come from a variety of genres and comprehension levels. The first session read The Land of Stories, a juvenile book by Chris Colfer. Recent books included Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak, House Rules by Jodi Picoult, the young adult dystopian novel Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and the science fiction novel Artemis by Andy Weir. Participants vote on what book will be read next from a list of pre-selected titles.
A Unique and Valuable Resource for Readers
Volunteer Linda Otto says, “I think this program serves as a valuable resource to challenged young men and women. I am proud that our library is committed to offering such a program, and I am gratified be a part of it.”
The group began in conjunction with the Evanston organization, Center for Independent Futures (CIF). Ann Sickon, Executive Director of CIF says, “We are delighted to work with Evanston Public Library through our Change Champions initiative, which encourages programs like the Read-Ability Book Group. I have spoken to many individuals with disabilities that have high praise for the Read-Ability Book Group. It is wonderful to see inclusive community actions that welcome people of all abilities to participate and to lead full lives.”
The current session ends on December 17, and the next session begins on January 7. The next book will be decided at the end of the current session. For more information or to join this group, contact Jeny Wasilewski Mills at firstname.lastname@example.org.