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Beyond Words to create 300 new Book Clubs for people with learning disabilities

“I think Book Clubs are brilliant. The books are good, the people are good and you make new friends as well! It makes me feel good to do Book Club.” – Julie Anderson, Book Club co-facilitator.

Beyond words illustration from the book club book

This World Book Day, pioneering visual literacy charity Beyond Words is launching their ambitious new Book Club in a Box project, aiming to create 300 new Book Clubs for people with learning disabilities by 2026. The Book Club in a Box is a free pack of books and materials that will enable people, charities and organisations to kickstart a Book Club in their local area.

Beyond Words Book Clubs are a safe space for people with learning disabilities to make friends, have fun and talk about the issues that affect their lives. They use Books Beyond Words, a series of word-free, age-appropriate picture stories that explore a huge range of topics, from relationships and building community to trauma and mental & physical health. By reading what they see in the pictures as a group, members build a story prompted by the images and informed by the their experiences and feelings.

The difference Book Clubs make to people with learning disabilities is life-changing. Julie Anderson, a co-facilitator of two Book Clubs and who has a learning disability herself, said:

“It’s been really good for me. You meet new friends, but I met an old friend I hadn’t seen for 20 years through my Book Club, too. One of my Book Clubs is even international – we have one person from Finland and one from Scotland. They came to visit one day when it was on Zoom and then stayed. The people that come say the Book Clubs are friendly and they like doing them.”

Beyond words members of a book club particpating

Julie is also the co-author of The Book Club, a word-free picture book included for free with every Book Club in a Box. All Beyond Words books are produced with people with learning disabilities, and often trialled by Book Clubs, to make sure they are accessible for a wide range of individuals.

Thanks to generous funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, the charity has been able to develop the free box of resources. It can easily be sent out to organisations and individuals who want to set up a Book Club in their local area. The boxes include 30 Beyond Words books, guidance on setting up your own club, promotional materials, member badges and lanyards and more, and is completely free of charge to anyone in England. 

Librarian Aisha Affejee has overseen the development of a huge network of Beyond Words Book Clubs across Kent Libraries over the last 12 years. 

“I think they’re beautiful. They are so unique – and they work to welcome everyone. There is not one person that I know that’s gone to one and said I don’t want to do that. Everybody always enjoys them so much. Not only do the Book Clubs provide the space for people with learning disabilities to have fun and make friends, but they also bring them into contact with their communities, breaking down barriers and building real connections.”

Organisations and individuals can request a kit through Beyond Words’ website ( or by contacting the charity via Creating a Book Club is easy once you have the kit – all you need are the people who will attend, a place to host it and to read together.

Beyond words members of a book club smiling

To celebrate the launch of Book Club in a Box, Beyond Words is giving away ebooks of their The Book Group book for the month of March. Visit and use discount code BOOKCLUB24 to get your free copy.

Beyond Words have been creating word-free stories about real life for over 35 years. Pictures are often better than words to tell stories about our relationships with other people and ourselves, especially when things are going wrong. With the new Book Club in a Box project the charity will be able to support more people than ever before.

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