JOHNSON CITY, TN - Several new book clubs designed for adults with disabilities will soon be starting across the region, thanks to a grant awarded to East Tennessee State University (ETSU).
One group has already been meeting each week at Barnes & Noble in Johnson City for the past two years, led by Dr. Cynthia Chambers, a faculty member in ETSU's Claudius G. Clemmer College of Education, and her students. Chambers started the program, called "Turning Pages Together," soon after she joined the ETSU faculty.
The $15,000 grant from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities will allow Chambers to launch five new book clubs that will convene at locations across the Tri-Cities.
"I'm very excited," said Chambers, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Learning. "The book club has been a rewarding experience for the adult participants and the students who have led the groups. We read and discuss a book and then have a party where we watch the movie.
She noted, "While this program promotes literacy development, it also builds social connections among the adults and gets them involved in the community."
Chambers has already begun discussions with persons in the region who are interested in hosting a book club. The grant will also fund travel expenses to bring Dr. Tom Fish to the ETSU campus for a lecture. Fish, who works at The Niswonger Center at The Ohio State University, founded Next Chapter Book Club, which has more than 80 clubs throughout the country.
Chambers added that another rewarding aspect of "Turning Pages Together" has been seeing her own students become passionate about literacy for persons with disabilities.
"My students have made this happen," she said. "When I first began the program, I casually asked if anyone was interested in volunteering. The students kept coming every week, and one student in particular has maintained the program over the summer. They've seen how rewarding it is to the participants and to themselves."
Chambers was recently appointed by Governor Phil Bredesen to serve a three-year term on the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities.