Tuesday, March 15, 2016

MELSA Next Chapter Book Club Affiliate Training

MELSA Next Chapter Book Club Affiliate Training, February 24, 2016

Saint Paul Public Library Staff Erin Zolotukhin-Ridgway, Gao Yang, Deb Kerkvliet, Joe Houlihan (Vista), and Mary Knox have received training for SPPL to become a NCBC affiliate.

What is Next Chapter Book Club? Next Chapter Book Club (NCBC) offers weekly opportunities for adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities - regardless of reading ability - to be members of a book club, to read and learn together in a community setting. Clubs are typically made up of 5-10 members and 1-3 trained facilitators reading the same book each time they meet until the book is completed.

Why have a book club for people with developmental disabilities?

        NCBC helps people with disabilities read, make friends, and enjoy the community.

        People with developmental disabilities can experience barriers to community inclusion and may have more limited opportunities for social interaction and only segregated social activities.

        There can be barriers to lifelong learning due to social attitudes that people with developmental disabilities are not interested in or capable of learning after school nor interested in reading or books.

        An NCBC facilitator commented that her time working with the book club reminded her of the incredible diversity and talent within people just waiting for an opportunity to be heard. All people need to have the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. NCBC is an opportunity to meet people where they are, to assume competence, and to celebrate what they can do.


History: NCBC was started by the Nisonger Center at Ohio State University in 2002 to integrate learning and social activity for people with developmental disabilities into community settings. NCBC has grown from 2 book clubs in Columbus, OH to nearly 300 clubs across North America, Europe and Israel.

Literacy skills: NCBC isn’t a class although NCBC participants may gain skills like page turning, knowing parts of books, word and letter recognition, enjoying and discussing books. NCBC focuses on reading to learn rather than learning to read.

Community inclusion: NCBC allows the opportunity for participants to be out in the community where people go. Clubs have often been held in community locations like book stores, cafes. In libraries, NCBC encourages clubs to be held in open spaces or if held in enclosed meeting rooms, encourages that part of the club meeting take place out in the open like exploring the library to find books or learn how to use resources.

Goal: The goal of the program is for members to interact more frequently and in new ways with books and a variety of written/oral communication, each other and the community around them. Facilitators work to help each member stay engaged as everyone is different.

Book club meetings:

        Reading is done during the club meetings so that members and facilitators can support each other as much as each wants to be supported.

        Book club meetings are also times for socializing, chatting, asking questions about the book, but also about each other, learning and sharing.

        There’s no certain time by which a book has to be finished.

        Clubs generally meet at a minimum every other week. Meeting weekly gives consistency to the club and helps keep members engaged in the book.

        Clubs usually meet for an hour at the same time and location.

        Clubs are facilitated by 1-3 facilitators, may be trained staff or volunteers.

        NCBCs meet in public spaces where the general community gathers: bookstores, libraries, cafes, and coffee shops, etc. and try to meet in open spaces to encourage community visibility, awareness, and engagement.


        Next Chapter Book Clubs welcome members with any reading level.

        Every effort is made to accommodate anyone who would like to join. Ways to help could be increasing text size on an e-reader, providing a book cradle to hold a book (if grasp or holding the book is difficult), audio books, large print, copying pages of the book to increase text size, letting someone enter text into a speech reader, providing an interpreter, etc.

        Any disruptive, problematic behavior is addressed on a case by case basis. Most often what may happen is that people may talk over each other or interrupt. NCBC recommends giving people a chance to do their best with gentle and respectful re-direction and reminders (not too wordy): “Hey, let’s talk about this at the end”, or “Hold on to that thought for a minute while_____finishes her thought”. Every once in a while there may be a member who just isn’t a good fit. NCBC staff is available for on-going support and consultation and Jillian is the Director of Training and Technical Assistance.

        Prospective members can visit a club to see what it looks like and whether they would like it.

        Age ranges: It is recommended to have a separate group for younger teens 12-13/14-17 and then a group for older teens/young adults/adults 18+. If a younger teen wants to join, you may want to talk with them and/or their guardian/parent to see if putting them in a group of older teens/adults will be a good fit.

NCBC Facilitators:

        The facilitator’s role is to ensure a safe, supportive, and fun experience and to monitor the club to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to engage and access books, inclusion, etc.

        Promote self-determination through highlighting areas/chances for members to make choices: when the group wants to take a break for socializing, what books the group wants to read, where they want to sit, what rules the group wants to have, what the group wants to do during holiday breaks, etc. The facilitator helps ensure that members are given a chance to be decision makers.

        Facilitators should make sure that members are contacted if the club can’t met for any reason, like in the case of unsafe road conditions, weather, etc.

        Facilitators can be either paid staff or volunteers or both if more than one facilitator.

        Volunteer recruiting: facilitators help recruit volunteers through volunteer recruiters, student service organizations, colleges, high schools, newspaper and magazine articles about the club, word of mouth, etc.

        Facilitators should make sure that volunteers are screened and trained.

        Volunteer training: Volunteers and new facilitators should receive an hour to 1 ½ hours of training during which facilitators find out their interests, check to make sure they are committed and can volunteer for at least the length of time it takes to finish one book. NCBC recommends that if volunteers are minors they should be paired with an older volunteer or paid staff facilitator. If volunteers are students you may want to consider running the club on a school calendar.

Effective Practices:

        Support emergent readers using Echo reading. Echo reading is pointing to what you are reading and saying it and then giving the member a chance to repeat it, if they want assistance reading. By doing this you give them a chance to be part of the reading experience and it can be a real feeling of accomplishment when they are able to follow along and repeat.  “When helping a member who does not read independently, position yourself next to that member. Point to the words you are reading and encourage the member to follow along. After a brief pause, say the word (s) and wait for him or her to “echo” the words back. Encourage the member to try some smaller words on his/her own.“ After working with the group for a while you can get a sense of who needs what support.
Some more tips for echo reading: Project your voice and read with inflection. Avoid whispering words in the member’s ears. Don’t spend too much time sounding out words or correcting. It is advisable to limit the amount of echoed text to a paragraph or two.

        Have everyone follow along in their books. They might use their fingers or a bookmark to track.

        Participation may happen in different ways: facilitators should watch faces, body language to see responses and may offer a word or phrase for what the member may be communicating: “You’re shaking your head. Do you think those kids were mean?” Facilitators can ask yes/no questions, ask about pictures in the book.

        If a facilitator has difficulty connecting with a member, you may ask the member or his/her guardian, if needed, how to best communicate-with a notebook, other ways??

        Periodically summarize or ask questions about events in recent pages to assist with comprehension. You may want to stop more frequently to do this. Not everyone may comprehend same things in the same way and at the same level.  May ask “Do you think Ramona is happy or frustrated?”

        When text contains a more advanced word, stop to ask what it means or give a definition or synonym.

        Engage the senses by asking members to imagine a particular scene in the story. For example if  the characters are in the kitchen you might ask, “What do you smell in a kitchen? What noises might you hear?” Talk about sensory experience, the time period, etc. If you are reading about riding in a covered wagon you could talk about this and compare it to transportation today.

        If you have an iPad or other mobile device or laptop, you may want to use it to bring up visuals to answer questions like what does a smirk look like.

        Can discuss outside/related topics for as long as seems to be of interest to group. Let the group direct itself some of the time. Any point in story can be a spark for discussion about participants’ lives or how story and lives relate/compare. See if timing is right for a conversation or may want to save for the end. May also want to wait for natural break like when changing readers.

        Model conversation skills. Help facilitate turn taking and extending the conversation by asking follow up questions or giving follow up comments.

        Say one thing and then wait for the member to respond. Some people may need more time for processing. May give prompts for turn taking, “Would you like to know what _______did this weekend?”

        Allow time for silence and avoid responding to every question or silence. Need to make sure give time for members to process and respond. Ask members to tell a person to his/her left about a favorite character, vacation spot, etc.

        Will start to get reading rhythm and people will feel when new reader is needed.

        Vary the style of your questions. Not all members may be able to respond to open-ended questions so try some either/or or yes/no questions. Can see whether using a choice board would help or helping the member pre-program words into an assistive speech device.

        What if a a group member tries to dominate conversations? Politely and respectfully re-direct the conversation. May look at giving a visual cue to signify that it’s time for the next person to talk. May look at giving this person an assignment (one club that met to discuss movies had a member who was more verbal than others and so he was given the assignment of researching a topic related to the movie and giving everyone a brief presentation on that topic before the movie viewing started. ) Groups may want to write down their rules for everyone to follow. May want to consider having a visual that indicates when it is time to talk and when it is not.

        Help members learn each other's names.

        Initiate conversations by pointing out mutual interests and encourage members to ask each other questions. One activity could be to put a list of questions that members can ask each other in the middle of the table and have members draw a question to ask someone else.

        Encourage members to help one another with such things as finding the correct page in the book.

        Be animated in our conversations; avoid making them feel like a quiz. Model reading fluency by taking a turn reading and don’t be afraid to use voices for characters, be silly.

        Use bookmarks to scan down the page, even if members aren’t able to stay exactly in the same place at first it gives another way to follow along with their peers.

        Respond to participation with positive reinforcement, “Great job.” “Thanks for reading”. Notice when members try something new or try or can do something that they hadn’t tried or done before or expand on something that they started.

        Highlight opportunities for members to make choices.

        Allow members to interact with staff. Only offer support if needed. Encourage members to talk about the club to other customers if a customer is curious about the club.

     For more ideas on activities for NCBC, see one of the SPPL staff who attended the training as we received a list of suggested activities or ask Erin, program coordinator, to get you copies of materials. We received two copies of the NCBC book:Next Chapter Book Club: A Model Community Literacy Program for People with Intellectual Disabilities and I am keeping one copy at my desk and having the other one added to the training library if you would like to borrow this book. I also have copies of intake, tracking forms, etc.

Basic Group Management:

        Respect members’ privacy and don’t share information without permission.

        Stay flexible.

        Redirect if necessary (polite, respectful, direct). It may help to give someone who has a lot to say a task related to what you are reading like doing research on a topic related to the book that can be shared at the beginning or end of a meeting or helping to hand out books, something related that still keeps them with the group.

        When starting a book, you may want to read the summary on the back of the book or inside the cover and discuss what you think will happen. You can let people know that they can help each other with words, finding pages, etc.  if others would like to be helped.

        Monitor member attendance. Call and talk with members if not attending to find out how are feeling about the group. Check to make sure they are okay.

        Welcome visitors and involve them in the club. Give them a chance to try it out.

        Assist members in adjusting to roster changes. Talk about if a member needs to leave the group (he/she is moving, trying a different activity, etc.) so everyone can feel comfortable with change as many may feel deep friendships with the other members.

        Ask for support. Can talk to Jillian and other staff.

Communication with NCBC Main Office:

        NCBC requests affiliates notify them of changes in the affiliate’s program coordinator, media requests related to NCBC, changes in the status of the NCBC program at the affiliate’s site or questions about the Standards of Practice. (This links to a Google Doc. If you can’t open this, please contact Erin for a copy of the Standards of Practice.) NCBC does request some forms be filled out on a monthly basis to track how their clubs are doing.

Program Sustainability:
       Success of programs depends on intentionality of staff and volunteers involved.  Be sure you have someone to champion your club.

       If you are partnering with an outside organization, be sure to meet or check in with your partners regularly to make sure everyone’s on the same page and follows through on commitments.

       Consider whether you want any breaks for your club during the year like in the summer or winter holidays, etc. This can be a chance for the group to discuss and make a choice about when to meet.

NCBC Outcomes-Results from 97 member surveys showed:
        84% stated their reading improved as a result of taking part in the club.
        65% said they found new friends in the club.
        81% said they like or really like being in the club.

NCBC on Social Media:


Link to my research and proposal on how to proceed (This is a Google Doc. If you can’t access it, let me know and I can send it to you as a Word attachment.)

I am waiting to hear back from the St. Paul JCC Inclusion and Accessibility and Highland Friendship Club about whether they are interested in partnering and able to do so. If they are, we will work on starting a club at Highland Park Library. If they aren’t, then I will work on starting a club at George Latimer Central. I hope to be able to start a club in the summer or fall of 2015.

If you are interested in looking at the NCBC book, the starter set of short stories NCBC provided, getting trained on how to be a NCBC facilitator, getting more information on NCBC,  please contact me (Erin) at: 651-266-7000, #5 (ask for Erin) or erin.zolotukhin-ridgway@ci.stpaul.mn.us

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