The Next Chapter Club is a motivating literacy and social skills program that also advocates for community inclusion by breaking down barriers, developing friendships, understanding, admiration and support for teens and young adults with intellectual disabilities. Truly an inspiration to all!

Briefly, here is how it works: Three or four “facilitators” meet weekly with a group of up to eight teens and young adults with intellectual disabilities at a local public location (coffee shop or suitable casual meeting place) to enjoy socializing while discussing a chapter from a book the group selects.

This is highly motivating for participants to read on their own to be prepared to meet with their “club.” Social skills, conversation, speech, reading and comprehension, money skills, making friends are all part of what takes place at each hour plus weekly meeting. The benefits are huge for the participants as well as the public observing the interaction, enjoyment and success of our wonderful teens and young adults.

Participants read the same book selection, but at their reading level, as many books are written for a variety of reading levels. All could read the same chapters. A recommended list has been prepared so the content is aligned.

What is required: A five-hour training, reading and preparation for each Next Chapter session, and a commitment to meet weekly for a specified number of weeks, scheduling weeks off and continuing throughout the year. Multiple clubs and topics could be taking place all around our county.

College students enrolled in our local special populations classes are invited to train as volunteer facilitators, but we do need experienced, passionate special education professionals and parents to participate as key facilitators.

Would you be interested in attending training to become a co-facilitator to lead a book club of eight participants? Training is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12 at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 909 N. La Cumbre Road in Santa Barbara.

Would you volunteer to prepare grant applications or fund raise for this project? The training program costs would be about $2,000 to cover costs of bringing in the organization staff for training our local volunteers, lodging, meals, transportation, air fare, taxi or car rental, etc. The training fee includes all the materials for participants, including a set of books for the first book club. We would like to purchase additional sets of books, to be certain everyone can participate without delay for the ongoing book club sessions.

If you are not able to help with this endeavor at this time, please share the opportunity with others. For more information, call 805.452.9039.

— Retta Slay represents the Next Chapter Club.