KLAS/National Organization on Disability Award
Books for Dessert Port Washington Public Library
The Port Washington Public Library’s “Books for Dessert” program makes the riches of the public library accessible to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by sharing the joy of reading in a relaxed, social and supportive environment. Launched as a pilot program in 2003 with initial funding support from New York State, “Books for Dessert” has expanded from one group with eight participants to three groups, two evening and one morning, with about 50 participants. Program participants range in age from their early-20s to mid-60s. The club gathers once a week between September and June to read aloud from books like “The Pearl” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” learn vocabulary and enjoy refreshments and good conversation. At the completion of the book, a video of the same title may be shown. The group compares the book and the video, stimulating discussion and reinforcing comprehension of the material. In addition to these educational benefits, library usage has increased among registered Book Club members, as well as their friends, housemates and the agency staff driving club members to the meetings.
The “Books for Dessert” program receives support from community partners, including Community Mainstreaming Associates, Inc. and the Association for the Help of Retarded Children (AHRC), an advisory board of parents, library staff, experts in the field and certified special education teachers to bring a reading and discussion experience to adults with ID/DD. High school students also support the teachers during each session by answering questions and helping participants follow along in the book while someone else is reading. The Advisory Board has created a manual that will allow other libraries to replicate this program—more information is available by accessing “Books for Dessert” at www.pwpl.org.
“The Port Washington Public Library’s 'Books for Dessert' program has championed the idea that literacy for individuals over the age of 21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities is important and achievable,” saidASCLA President Norma Blake. “'Books for Dessert' is an outstanding example of local public library innovation and ingenuity, and the library is to be commended not only for developing this highly successful program, but also for developing a program guide to help other public libraries across the nation to replicate the program in their local communities.”