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Next Chapter Book Club

Dan Dodge

The Next Chapter Book Club franchise was founded by Dr. Thomas Fish in 2002, when he was the Director of Social Work at the Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center for Excellence in Disabilities. His goal was to create and help a number of clubs in the Central Ohio area that provided a fun unique way for people with special needs to participate in their communities. With the growth of social media, the Next Chapter program expanded well beyond just Central Ohio and would start hundreds of clubs all around the globe.

The Next Chapter franchise offers different community-based reading programs which assists young adults with various special needs such as: Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and so many more.

Our participants love books just like most people do, even though some have trouble reading or cannot read on their own. They love traveling to different locations where they meet unique creatures and learn about wonderful new things. Doing that journey with friends makes it so much more exciting.

“Next Chapter Book Club nurtures an enjoyment of books coupled with the chance to socialize in a public setting for a population that is often excluded from such opportunities.”- Michelle Willis

The Next Chapter Book Club mission statement is to offer lasting opportunities for lifelong educating, social interactions, and different community inclusion for people with special needs each week which include participants of different reading levels.

An expanding number of programs such as public libraries, social service agencies and parent groups are coming together and starting Next Chapter Book Clubs in their own communities. They understand its simple message and want to help spread awareness in their own communities.

The Next Chapter Book Club is a global program with groups meeting all over the world such as North America, Australia, Africa, and Europe.

After Dr. Thomas Fish moved from Ohio to Leland, North Carolina, he started a book club in Brunswick Forest in April 2019. I saw an advertisement about the book club and decided to join the club. It was love at first sight.

Our club consists of seven participants: Brendan Connelly (myself), Robert Lang, William Flynn, Shannon Baker, Jill DeGeorge, Shari DeGeorge & Emily Jahn, and six facilitators: Dr. Thomas Fish, Gail Reardon, Gail Ritter, Marilyn Fewkes, Nancy D’Abrosca, and Teena Miller.

I love seeing the connection and friendship between the group members. Each week everyone comes in with a smile on their face and is eager to engage in the reading and communicate with one other.

Going forward, I would love to see the Next Chapter program continue to grow across America and across the world.

This is an important program to continue to spread around the world – helping people with special needs to read, socialize, and make friends makes them smarter, wiser, and better individuals. It gives them a light in their lives. It also helps spread awareness as it is living proof that people with special needs can achieve greatness in their lives.

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About the Contributor
Brendan Connelly
Brendan Connelly, Contributing Writer
Brendan Connelly is a contributing writer for Cape Fear Voices.