Book club members with learning disabilities in Kent write and publish three new books

Picture This is a project which gives creative freedom to people with learning disabilities to create stories that stimulate their imaginations and interest them. It is an innovative new project for publisher Beyond Words in partnership with Kent Libraries. The ‘Picture This – Story Sharing’ project, funded by Arts Council England, brought together three artists with nine Beyond Words book clubs for adults with learning disabilities, to produce three new books. These are an extension of the Books Beyond Words series focussing on fun, lighter reads for leisure.

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The books were produced over five months, through workshops where adults with learning disabilities explored the art of storytelling through drawing and drama. With the aid of a facilitator and artists, they developed and shared these stories within their communities, to make the final books you see today.

Through a careful selection process, a panel comprising people with learning disabilities, City Lit course leaders and Beyond Words Series Editor Sheila Hollins, selected three talented new artists to illustrate the books. They are Lucy Bergonzi, Beth Aulton and Gaby Weigert.

The Picture This imprint is different from the main Books Beyond Words series, which tackles many challenging subjects such as mental health, bereavement and accessing services. Instead, these books are fun, fictional stories to be read for pleasure.

The Picture This books make people smile and laugh out loud. The positive gains associated with laughter are well-documented and reading these books in groups and having fun together is something that everyone can enjoy. You can now buy these books online here, or hire them from Kent Libraries.

Thanks for reading,

The Beyond Words Team

These look great.

I was just having an interesting but at times cynical conversation with someone about book clubs this morning.

I’m following a conference on twitter at the moment #TakePartSTHLM Take Part Stockholm.
It’s a conference for “print disabled” people.

Whilst it has lots of statement’s re “literature for everyone” etc there seems to be nothing for people with learning disabilites (so far. It’s only day 1).

The main focus seems to be stick the text onto audio as is without making it easier to understand.

The discussion I was having was about bookclubs as a possible alternative to audio versions.

Bookclubs seem to be able to support people to engage with stories through different channels, things like sensory stories, story telling /discussion and people writhing thier owm stories (like these).

My partner in the discussion was adamant that Libraries should be much more proactive in this process, hosting and setting up book clubs but went on to say that lots of people just watch films instead.

I came out of the conversation jaded and confused, with more questions than answers.

It’s great to see that Book clubs are alive and flourishing producing their own stories and that Libraries are part of the process.

Hi Pete,

We have worked really hard to get the book clubs where they are and we couldn’t have done it without the amazing Sue Carmichael, who has really a strong and tested methodology, placing people with learning disabilities at the heart of everything - from administering to leading the clubs. She has worked with a set of fantastic librarians and council representatives, predominantly in Kent, namely Andrew Skelton and Liz Taylor. This team and their support networks have been a huge help in building relationships with local groups to include our book clubs across Kent libraries. We also have a great set of volunteers working across the country and our in-house Training Manager, Stas’ Smagala has trained over 200 people to date, and is about to embark on a large-scale effort across Croydon.

Our book clubs are social, patient and inclusive allowing people of all ability to mix, yet PWLD are at the heart of it all. The pictures in our books allow both readers and non-readers alike interact on a level field resulting in a wonderful sharing of personal stories which veer from hilarity to heartbreaking. I could go on but I will leave it there for now. Thanks for commenting, supporting and updating us on this conference. It’s sad that people are plonked in front of screens and that conversation and sharing aren’t at the heart of these endeavours.

Best wishes,

Pete, Beyond Words

I agree about the conference, it seems to have a bit of a slick technology will sort out all our problems feel to it. Saying that I’m not actually there and ironically using technology to watch it. :wink:

One of the things that came up in the discussion this morning was wouldn’t it be great if there was a way of doing book club versions of best selling novels and non fiction.

The Harry Potter series was mentioned.

A Picture This / Beyond words version would be great and probably not that hard to do, I’m guessing it would need authors approval. There might be some cross over with the Fan Fiction movement, so many niches and groups to work with - exciting times.

Yes that all sounds interesting and would open some great opportunities for high profile authors to get involved with people with learning disabilities and artists to create something accessible which encapsulates what they are saying, whether it be a fictional story about wizards or an important work of non-fiction.

Fan fiction is always fun, some of our clubs have written their own sequels to Beyond Words books!