Evaluating the impact of Beyond Words Book Clubs on the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities

Supervisory team: Dr Liz Tilley and Dr Lindsay O'Dell (Open University)

This project will evaluate the impact of the Beyond Words Book Clubs on the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities who participate. The project will have a particular focus on the ways in which the Book Clubs support people to feel like they belong in their local community (on the understanding that a sense of belonging can improve people’s physical and mental health).  More specifically, the project will explore the ways in which the act of collaborative group reading of Beyond Words publications helps the organisation to achieve its key aims of:

  • empowering people to tell their own stories;
  • improving people’s knowledge and understanding about key issues in their lives; and
  • reducing social isolation.

The project will also explore potential barriers to these aims being achieved.

The research will consider the impact of different contexts on outcomes, and as such will involve empirical research in Book Clubs across a variety of settings, such as libraries, churches, self-advocacy groups and health and social care services.  The project will also aim to explore the experiences of as wide a group of people with learning disabilities as possible, for example: differing levels of need, gender, ethnicity, age and sexuality.

The proposed project is qualitative in nature. Data will be collected in a range of ways, adapted to the needs and wishes of participants. Potential methods include interviews, focus groups, ethnographic observation and inclusive workshops. Participants will include people with learning disabilities who attend Book Clubs and other people in their circle of support who can offer insights into the impact of an individual’s attendance at a Beyond Words Book Club (such as family members or support workers).