Loneliness is a serious problem in our society, particularly for people with learning disabilities, but joining a book club can greatly improve wellbeing and happiness. Our newest wordless story, The Book Club, will showcase the benefits of belonging to a book club and to encourage people to try one for themselves.
Research has revealed that almost 1 in 3 young people with a learning disability spend less than 1 hour outside their home on a typical Saturday (Mencap, 2019). Moreover, 85% of young disabled adults aged between 18-34 say they feel lonely (Sense, 2017). More opportunities to engage and have fun with peers are necessary to combat social isolation and here book clubs offer a solution.
For people who can't read or who find words difficult, the idea of joining a book club may seem daunting. However, over the past eight years, we have worked tirelessly to establish a network of accessible book clubs around the UK where members of all ages read the Books Beyond Words series of wordless picture stories.
Being part of a book club has many benefits. They’re a great way to meet new people and have fun, and they are also safe spaces where people can come together regularly to explore and talk about the things that affect their lives, the things that go wrong as well as those that work out alright; issues such as physical and mental health, relationships and employment.
The Book Club tells the story of a young man called Phil who decides, along with some schoolmates, to join a wordless book club that runs in his local library. The group enjoys sharing stories together and soon discovers that they have lots of other things in common and new friendships develop.
The story shows young people at the start of their adult lives who may be looking for ways to join in and feel part of their local community. The book will be a valuable resource not only for libraries looking to make their service more accessible, but also for schools and colleges supporting students approaching transition age.
In order to develop a story that was easy to understand, heartfelt and engaging, authors Baroness Sheila Hollins (Beyond Words Founder), Sue Carmichael (Book Club Co-ordinator) and Julie Anderson (Book Club Volunteer and Administrator) worked together with artist Beth Aulton and a team of advisors with and without learning disabilities across the country.
Baroness Sheila Hollins said: "This book is going to be so important, because it introduces the idea of belonging and specifically belonging to a book club. Getting over the nervousness of joining your first book club can be a challenge. But discovering that actually it is a place where you can share ideas, thoughts and feelings, and begin to trust other members of the club as you do so, is very special.”
Julie Anderson said: "I thought the book club was going to be like school. By the end of the first club I could see the book club was not like that and would be very good. Our librarian introduced Mandy to the group. It turned out we knew each other from school but had not seen one another for many years. The book club means we are friends again and we meet outside the club too."
The book was launched on 25 September at Deal Library, where a Beyond Words book club runs once a month on a Thursday.