‘The developmental disabilities community needs a safe and welcoming place to gather and learn.’
MARISSA LEE DAMIANO, GLEN COVE
“When I noticed that residents of the AHRC [Association for Habilitation and Residential Care] visiting the Glen Cove Public Library were not engaging in our services, I created a program called Hooked on Books to serve this overlooked community. The AHRC supports people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. It began in November 2022 — and it’s been a great success!
“We meet weekly on Wednesdays, beginning our sessions with poetry, then read from our current book selection, and we finish with a craft. Among the books we’ve read are ‘A Flag for Juneteenth’ by Kim Taylor and ‘Mercy Watson to the Rescue’ by Kate DiCamillo. We’ve brought in guest readers such as Marsha Silverman, Glen Cove City councilperson, and local trumpet player Nick Mondello, who demonstrates the magic of music. The program promotes togetherness, inclusivity, diversity, acceptance and most importantly love.
“We enjoy listening to and singing along with songs by Johnny Cash, Randy Travis, Katy Perry, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond and our theme song, ‘Smile,’ by Vitamin C. Through their own drawings, we celebrate birthdays and holidays together.
Working with these individuals has changed my life.
“Outside the library, the group helps out tending to our seed garden. Among the more memorable moments was the time we had a class about sign language, and the members asked me to copy the book for them to take home so they could show their families how to sign. It was so touching!
“One of the members excitedly told the group that her family member commented on how her reading has improved, and she responded that it was because of our group. Working with these individuals has changed my life. I am a graduate student, focusing on becoming a disability support librarian.
“The developmental disabilities community needs a safe and welcoming place to gather and learn. I plan on continuing this program and will invite other librarians to our meetings with hopes they can implement the program in their neighborhood. Perhaps this program will go national!
“Many of our participants say that because of this program, Wednesday is their favorite day of the week. After working with these individuals, I can cheerfully say it is mine, too!”
Interviewed by Saul Schachter