Young adults connect in Harry Potter book club

A pre-pandemic video storytelling workshop that began in person and morphed into a podcasting experience has taken on a new life, thanks to some innovative educators and curious and engaged young people.

Participants were young adults from around the state and FGCU students, some of whom were on the autism spectrum and others who were not. They were fairly distinct groups otherwise not likely to interact. But isolation combined with technology had pointed out the possibility of a fairly equalizing group experience at which everyone was likely to participate.

How about a virtual book club based on the Harry Potter series? An anonymous donor liked the idea, too. 

Based on a nine-week curriculum and the input from local groups My Autism Connection and the statewide offices of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), WGCU created a book group based on “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The result not only had the dozen-or-so participants sharing ideas about the book but also conceiving creative projects that they then shared: one rewrote lyrics to a popular song that then became about the villain Valdemort; another led a recipe session in which they made a dish from a Harry Potter cookbook.

“Instructors (Jen Mackler and Kelly Ussery) told me that the book club made everyone equal, whether they are an FGCU student peer, a young adult on the autism spectrum, an instructor, everyone participated equally,” said WGCU Associate General Manager for Content Amy Shumaker. “It broke the isolation young adults were feeling – through the magic of Harry Potter.”

The donation was renewed, and the group moves on to the second book. This time, Muggles meet over “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”