Empowerment in the Community: Starting with a Book Club

In September, 2015, we received an email from Shirley-Ann about her son Kurtis. Shirley-Ann wanted to let others know how important literacy is for adults with varying abilities/intellectual disabilities. Here is Kurtis’ story in her words: 

This story is about my son, Kurtis. Kurtis is a charming adult in his mid-twenties who has Down Syndrome. Kurtis has completed school, is employed at three paid jobs, volunteers in his Delta community, and is an athlete. He is a well known, contributing Delta citizen.

Kurtis’ goal is to lead an independent life, one enriched by literacy, continuous lifelong learning, independence, friendships and community inclusion. Kurtis and his support team were challenged in making his dreams a reality. Many of the resources available to adults with intellectual disabilities were limited and non-inclusive.

I received information on a book club model, The Next Chapter Book Club. This club is a model for lifelong learning, community inclusion and self-determination.  In August 2012 this book club was established locally in partnership with Delta Literacy Committee and the Delta Libraries (FVRL).

The book club has integrated literacy into social activities such as book discussions, motivating activities such as word searches, games, creative story writing, poetry, theme related literacy, community field trips and laughter. Kurtis has progressed from an adult who did not want to read in the group, to a full participant.

The book club has empowered Kurtis in his community, increased public awareness and helped him and other group members achieve new levels of self-esteem and risk taking. The club has also enhanced the reading process by improving articulation and word production.  Literacy technology skills have also improved.

There are several outstanding areas the book club has supported Kurtis with literacy essentials such as: public speaking using literacy technology, writing and presenting thank you speeches and reading instructions and street addresses for location as related to his paid employment. Please view Kurtis giving a speech with the use of literacy technology on the YouTube video:

Kurtis looks forward each week to walking and attending independently The Next Chapter Book Club. The club has helped Kurtis achieve new levels of independence, speech and literacy.  It has crystallized many opportunities to ensure that Kurtis will always live as a valued and equal member in his community.

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