Next Chapter Book Club (NCBC) was created in 2002 by Dr. Thomas Fish, the Director of Social Work at The Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center for Excellence in Disabilities. His intention was to launch and support a handful of clubs in and around Central Ohio that offered a fun way for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to actively participate in their communities. But in the years that followed, an organic process – fueled primarily by social media – took the model far beyond the boundaries of the Buckeye State. In 2011, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization named “Chapters Ahead” was created to more strategically manage the expansion of Next Chapter Book Club.
The mission of Next Chapter Book Club is to provide meaningful opportunities for lifelong-learning, social connections and authentic community inclusion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through weekly or bi-weekly community-based book club meetings that include readers of all skill levels.
NCBC is committed to providing weekly opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to read, learn and make friends in a relaxed, community setting. The premise is simple. A group of four to eight people with IDD, along with two trained facilitators, gather weekly or bi-weekly for one-hour in a local public library, bookstore, coffee shop, café, or similar public establishment to read aloud and discuss a book. Anyone can participate, whatever their reading or ability level. NCBC members range from those who read proficiently to those who cannot read at all.
NCBC provides a unique opportunity for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to experience community inclusion, social connectedness, life-long learning, self-determination and self-advocacy. The NCBC meetings are purposeful gatherings of the same people on a regular basis. Members, as a group, determine all aspects of their participation in NCBC meetings (i.e. book selection) and are encouraged to express their opinions, wants, and needs.
NCBC is not a traditional reading class or tutoring program. Although members may (and often do) improve literacy skills, the focus is on reading-to-learn, not learning-to-read. Equally important elements of the program are social interaction and community inclusion. The goal of NCBC is for members to interact more frequently, and in new ways with reading materials, with each other, and with the community around them. Next Chapter Book Club, through a network of NCBC Affiliates, offers community-based book clubs for adolescents and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Clubs are comprised of four to eight members and two volunteer facilitators who are trained to engage readers of all levels – including those who cannot read at all.
Strategic VisionAccelerated Growth
The United States has approximately 3,000 counties and 17,000 public libraries – and we want in every one of them by 2026. Ambitious? Absolutely! But many libraries are already offering Next Chapter Book Club to their patrons with disabilities and we are encouraged by this October 2014 article from the Public Library Association, titled: Reaching Out: Library Services to the Developmentally Disabled. It states:
“Like everyone, the developmentally disabled community wants a safe place to continue learning, sharing, and growing intellectually throughout their lives. The public library is in a unique position to be that place, and the rewards will be great for the whole community.”Additionally, many county social service agencies have embraced the NCBC program as a way to fulfill their mandate to offer inclusive, community-based programming to the clients they serve. Greater Collaboration
We want to connect the dots between public libraries, social service agencies and parent groups. Each of them values community inclusion, lifelong learning and greater independence for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Next Chapter Book Club is a low-cost / high impact vehicle for achieving that and is easy to launch and sustain – particularly in collaboration with multiple partners who share responsibilities.Increased Capacity
Expansion on the scale that we are envisioning will require additional resources. As we secure the necessary funding, we plan to place personnel in each state to drive growth and deliver training and support to NCBC Affiliates.Creative Program Development
Our clubs provide a natural way to expose members to books that promote a greater understanding of self-advocacy, employment, cultural engagement and other quality-of-life issues. We plan to test the feasibility of embedding modules into our existing NCBC model that offer a fun way to engage club members in meaningful discussions about these important topics.International Expansion
Next Chapter Book Club is already operating in Canada and Europe. We plan to cultivate more international opportunities and create better ways to train and support NCBC Affiliates outside of the United States.