Triangle Reads What local book clubs are up to

Triangle Reads: What local book clubs are up to

tleonard@newsobserver.comMarch 30, 2014 

“Too Close to the Falls” by Catherine Gildiner.

  • Nonfiction

    Too Close to the Falls

    Catherine Gildiner

    Penguin Books, 400 pages

The Triangle Aphasia Project works with people throughout the Triangle who have had a stroke or other brain injury that results in a loss of language function. Their two book clubs, TAP into Reading and Mind Readers, have been a huge success with people who may have thought they had lost the ability to enjoy reading, according to the group’s director and founder Maura English Silverman.

When and where do you meet? We launched these two book clubs in March last year. We meet every Tuesday at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the TAP office in Cary.

Tell us about your club. Our readers are men and women. We range in age from 30 to 75. We come from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions – everything from law and medicine to sales and homemaking. We are high-school graduates and PhDs. We enjoy fiction and non-fiction, a good story, a lesson learned, and a hearty laugh at ourselves and life.

Contrary to what many people think, persons with aphasia can continue to improve their language long after their stroke or brain injury, and even across their lifespan. When asked about the language loss, most will mention the loss of the ability to enjoy reading as they did in the past. Some may not be able to decipher the letters in words and phrases, while others read silently but can’t utter a word, and still others read several paragraphs yet struggle to find meaning and connection. Moreover, they miss the fun of sharing their reading experiences with others and discussing their reactions and ideas. There is just so much you can get from a “good read” that you can’t get anywhere else.

Because people with aphasia experience varying degrees of language difficulty, we originally created two groups to accommodate those differences. However, as the groups evolved, those differences were superseded by personal interest. TAP into Reading has mostly enjoyed novels and memoirs; Mind Readers have loved the challenge of books with increased length and complexity. When someone expresses interest in our club, we survey their reading interest, especially pre-injury. We cover a book in depth and use many modes to express our ideas – speaking, writing, gesturing – so that everyone can participate.

What are you reading now? TAP into Reading: “Too Close to the Falls” by Catherine Gildiner. Mind Readers: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson.

What is your club’s favorite book? “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand and “The Ha Ha” by Dave King

What’s unique about your club? We collaborate with the State Library of North Carolina to borrow digital audio books and combine those with large print texts. We read a book over many weeks and meet weekly to discuss the content and our ideas with the help of a speech pathologist-facilitator and volunteers. The key for success has proven to be interest and desire more than ability. Many have been pleasantly surprised to find they enjoy books out of their comfort zone. They tell us these books open new doors of interest for them.

When they wanted to read “Unbroken,” book club facilitator Candace Seibert was skeptical about tackling a book with such lengthy and complex content. It wasn’t easy, but virtually every member of the group completed the book and loved Louis Zamperini.

When we completed “Unbroken,” a group member invited four World War II vets to speak with our group. We were spellbound by these men and their stories. When we completed “The Ha-Ha,” a novel narrated by a man with aphasia from a Vietnam brain injury, author Dave King gave us a Skype interview. He was as impressed with our group members as we were of his ability to understand the thoughts of his aphasic character.

How to join: Learn more about the Triangle Aphasia Project at aphasiaproject.org. If you’re interested in the book clubs, call 919-650-3854 or email info@aphasiaproject.org.

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