Over the years as an avid reader, mom and school librarian I have seen books work their magic in many peoples lives. I am proud to live in a society which reveres books and promotes literacy. This attitude has imbued books with a power beyond the written word. It wasn’t until I started working with developmentally disabled adults I felt validated in my belief that books can transform us into whomever we want to be, if for only one memorable moment in time and this can have a profound affect on our lives.
After a few years of helping to create social integration programs for developmentally disabled adults, I decided to start a reading group with them. It was touch and go at first because I had no idea who could read, what to read and if they’d even like it. I knew only one thing, everyone had to hold a book whether they could read it or not. I thought this was an attempt on my part to make us all equal. I had no idea what a profound affect this would have on the participants. Non-readers and readers alike sat up straighter in their chairs in reverence for the very books they held. Anti-social behavior such as interrupting diminished. Non-readers learned quickly to turn the pages as the readers did and although they only listened to the stories, they actively participated in the book discussions that followed. The stories helped us focus on things outside of ourselves and our daily lives. We learned we are not alone in our struggles and that most times things do work out okay in the end.
Going into our second year we have seen Lassie come home, Black Beauty reunited with his favorite master, Heidi help Clara walk and have seen Laura safely to her little house on the prairie. These are just a few of the many adventures we’ve been on and word has it we’ll be shipping out with R.L. Stevenson soon. We all know we are part of a greater thing, but ask any of us individually and I think we’ll all shake our heads and say it’s the books.
The real breakthrough occurred the other day when the someone told me of how one of our readers has blossomed and is flourishing because of our group. We all suffer from the lack of coping skills from time to time. This woman learned her love of books could help her cope by transferring her focus on things she couldn’t fix unto enjoying herself with a new book and letting things resolve themselves.
I believe books do possess a power beyond the written words they contain to transform peoples lives. My whole hearted gratitude goes out to all those who have worked to preserve their words and have promoted their importance in our society. Perhaps I’ll add to the old adage, “the suit makes the man”, by saying, “and a book can make a person as well”.
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