A community-based book club for people with intellectual and development disabilities has been launched at the local library in Echuca.
This is the first time 21-year-old Lauren from Kyabram in north-east Victoria has joined a book club.
Although she has enjoyed reading for a number of years, the first timer said she was a little nervous at joining the Next Chapter Book Club.
But on hand will be her carer of eight years, Chris, to help her along.
"My aim will be loosely being here and sort of fading in and out so that Lauren can gain her confidence and not need support during that time," he said.
Lauren, along with seven other adolescents and adults with an intellectual or developmental disability, will meet once a week at the Campaspe Regional Library in Echuca as part of the Next Chapter Book Club Affiliate Network which was founded in the United States in 2002.
Library Services Manager Jenny Mustey said she had been looking at ways to make the library more inclusive and partnered with a local respite service to deliver the community-based book program.
"[To allow] people to have an opportunity to do something that mainstream people can do," she said.
"I want people to feel that they can come to a place and feel comfortable, that they can join together have a good time, read together and just enjoy the written word as anyone else would do in a book club."
The program is open to older teens and young adults who have a disability such as autism, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy and other types of intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Participants don't have to be able to read
Unlike a literacy program or a traditional book club, participants do not have to take the book home to read it.
Liz Rowsell, volunteer coordinator at Community Living and Respite Services, said all the reading will be done during the program.
"They're reading to learn instead of learning to read, so the whole thing is to have fun and to be integrated into the community," she said.
"It doesn't matter what level of reading they have."
Being able to read is not a requirement as one of the techniques used is echo reading.
"So if a person can't read themselves but they can repeat what the carer is reading they can do that," Ms Mustey said.
The aim is to read a story each week out of the supplied text book, with participants sharing the reading.
"So they work out who's going to read the next paragraph and then talk about it," Ms Mustey said.
"There are a few questions in there that prompt the conversation."
Volunteers on hand to help
As much as the social aspect of the club is an important part of the program so is integration.
"I think it's a really nice social activity for people to feel part of the community," Ms Mustey said.
"So people in the community can see people with disabilities can be just as social as well."
To help the participants in the program a volunteer from the library and from the respite service will be on hand, all of whom have undergone training as part of the program.
Participants can also attend independently or with their carer or support person.
With the program at full capacity there is talk of another one starting.
"We'll see how the success of this goes and then we may have to start another one," Ms Mustey said.
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