It's about sharing a good experience.
Adults with special needs meet each week for an hour of stories, activities, and fellowship in this book discussion group.
Every member is encouraged to read aloud to the group, take part in the discussion, and do a craft. Read Free respects the abilities and limitations of all members within a safe and supportive group environment.
The program is free and open to adults with special needs who are able to participate without the help of a caregiver.
Rosemary Minnella, program creator, explains how Read Free came to be:
"After hearing about a discussion group for special needs adults in the United States that was set up like a book club, we knew we had to bring something like it to Burlington. We changed it a little, and made it our own by joining with Community Living Burlington and their dedicated staff. As a result, the Read Free discussion group is the first of its kind in Ontario."
Read Free is a great example of how community partnerships can make a real difference to people. As well as linking the library and Community Living, area colleges are involved. Social science students from Ryerson University, Sheridan College, and Mohawk College conduct the sessions as valuable, meaningful work placements.
"We are all proud to accompany adults with special needs into the wonderful world of reading," adds Minnella.
Karen Lade, director of Program Supports at Community Living Burlington enthusiastically endorses Read Free.
"Read Free promotes adult literacy, inclusivity, partnerships, and volunteerism. There is lack of public awareness about adult literacy and disabilities," Lade says. "Stereotyping and assumptions about the capacity of people with disabilities to learn and work are harsh social barriers. Many mainstream literacy programs do not have the skills or resources to accommodate people with developmental disabilities. Read Free breaks down these barriers in our community!"
Read Free was shortlisted for the 2013 Angus Mowat Award for Excellence presented by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.