“I Feel Normal Here”: The Social Functions of a Book Club in a Residential Recovery Program

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2019


Book clubs are gatherings around shared texts; they have the potential to build strong interpersonal bonds (Pittman & Honchell, 2014; Porath, 2018). This study examines a weekly book club in a residential treatment center for female addicted trauma survivors and offers contrast to research on book clubs in non-restrictive settings. We address, “What are the social functions of a book club in a restrictive setting?” We drew upon sociocultural theory, specifically, literacy as a social practice which focuses on cultural literacy practices embedded in local contexts (Barton & Hamilton, 2000; Perry, 2012) that people draw upon in particular interactions (Barton, 2001). The findings focus on three primary social functions of the book club as developing: 1) a reading identity through the habit of reading and discussing books, 2) a sense of belonging to a book club, and 3) a sense of normalcy. The discussion considers this book club in relation to: 1) others held in restrictive and non-restrictive settings, 2) the establishment of a sense of community; and 3) a sense of normalcy and agency. This research offers insight into ways literacy practices, such as book clubs, meet the often-unrecognized needs of individuals and communities in restrictive environments.


This article was originally published in Journal of Language and Literacy Education, volume 14, issue 2, in 2019.

Peer Reviewed