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New Jonesborough book club to help adults with disabilities

In a town where stories are everywhere you turn, the creation of a unique book club will soon have a handful of individuals starting a new chapter of a very important tale.
Dr. Cynthia Chambers, an assistant professor at East Tennessee State University’s Department of Human Development and Learning, is working to create a book club in Jonesborough for adults with disabilities.
As a part of her Turning Pages Together program, the club will cater to individuals with intellectual disabilities such as mental retardation and autism.
While the program promotes literacy development through weekly meetings, it also builds social connections among the adults involved in the book clubs.
“Once an individual with a disability graduates from high school, if there are no supports in place, they can fall into the realm of being isolated,” Chambers said. “This kind of club helps them to maintain active participation in the community.”
While similar to typical book clubs in many ways, members of the Turning Pages Together clubs do their reading together.
“We meet in community settings and we actually read the books on site together,” Chambers said. “We have seen a lot of individuals with disabilities improve their reading levels through this program.”
Groups discuss their books and watch movies based on them as part of the program, too.
While the book clubs cater to adults with disabilities, they also invite others to take part.
“It’s an inclusive opportunity because our world is made up of lots of different people,” Chambers said. “If we can have a diverse group for our book club, then we’re more representative of the people who make up our community as a whole.”
And that, Chambers said, can make all the difference for those with disabilities.
“It’s more than just reading a book,” she said. “It’s the socializing, the being able to make friends. It has improved their quality of life.”
Currently, Turning Pages Together has three book clubs operating in Johnson City and one each in Kingsport and Bristol.
A $15,000 grant recently awarded by the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities will allow Chambers to launch five new book clubs. In addition to Jonesborough, Chambers is also looking to start a club in Greeneville.
For more information about Turning Pages Together, call 439-7586 or e-mail [email protected]