PHI Spark (No. 2)

Take Your Group on an Adventure in Reading

In these days of Zoom meetings and limited travel, why not organize a group discussion about an interesting book? Here is how it could work:

      1. At a meeting, present three polio-related book titles to the group, and after reading a synopsis of each, have the group choose one. After the meeting, each person would obtain a copy to read. Books could be checked out at the local library or purchased online.

      2. One person could volunteer to act as the book discussion group leader. They would read the book, research the author and see if there is a website on the book to learn more about it.

      3. At the meeting, the group could warm up with a brief personal catch-up led by the support group leader.

      4. Then the book discussion leader would start by briefly sharing the content and any relevant information about the author.

      5. At this point, members would be asked to discuss the book. A few starter questions could prompt sharing:

        a. What was your initial reaction to this book?
        b. What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas was he or she trying to get across?
        c. How did you feel about what you read? How did it affect you?
        d. How is what you read similar or different from your own experience? In what way?
        e. What did you like best about this book?
        f. What did you like least?
        g. Share a favorite quote from the book. Why did this quote stand out?
        h. What new things did you learn?
        i. Questions you create with your group’s interests in mind.

      6. Remember, all members are welcome to join the group even if they have not chosen to read the book.

One example of a new book to have your group read and discuss might be Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist. This was written by polio survivor and leader of the Disability Rights Movement, Judy Heumann.

Ellen Cohen, a member of the Boca Area Post-Polio Group in Boca Raton, Florida, published a short evaluation in Second Time Around (June 2020), the group’s newsletter. Ellen’s personal commentary about her relationship with the author and her praise for the book follows.

As a member of the Boca Area Post-Polio Group, I am writing to tell you about a WONDERFUL BOOK I just read entitled Being Heumann by Judy Heumann. I met Judy many, many years ago as a child, and we wound up attending the same high school. Judy and I were friends through high school and beyond until she moved on in her life.

She is a polio survivor, as we are, and made a name for herself as a very strong disability activist and was very instrumental in the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She worked in Washington in conjunction with two presidents’ administrations and led many civil rights movements to have equality for all people with disabilities. Despite her disability, she has made life for the disabled a much better place to live in with equality for all.

Unfortunately, we lost touch as we both moved on in our lives; I am so honored to have known her as a friend. I recommend this book to anyone with polio or without, as it's an inspiring book about how one person can accomplish so much for the disabled world by pushing the boundaries of WHAT WHAT IS.

There is also an interesting documentary on Netflix about Judy and the beginnings of the Disability Rights Campaign. It is called Crip Camp. Your group members may also want to check it out.

Additionally, here are suggestions for well-written books to read:

  • Naomi Rogers, The Polio Wars: Sister Kenny and the Golden Age of American Medicine (the best biography of Sister Kenny)

  • Charlotte Jacobs, Jonas Salk: A Life (most recent biography of Salk)

  • David Oshinsky, Polio: An American Story (best overall history of the epidemics, won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2005)

  • Daniel J. Wilson, Living with Polio: The Epidemic and Its Survivors (best study of the epidemics from the perspective of those who had polio)

  • Lauro Halstead, MD, An Unexpected Journey: A Physician's Life in the Shadow of Polio (interesting autobiography by a polio survivor and a prominent post-polio physician)

To find still more ideas for books of interest your group, see the list published by PHI on Polio Place:

No matter what our age, it’s fun to travel on a road that expands our perspective and leads us to new knowledge and personal insights!

But it’s even more fun to enjoy the trip with good friends.

Thank you for your caring commitment to polio survivors. PHI genuinely appreciates all the work you have been doing for many years.

If you order a book online, try using AmazonSmile, the simple way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. Simply go to, log in, choose “Post-Polio Health International Inc” as your preferred charity, and shop as you normally would. When you shop at AmazonSmile, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as, with the added benefit that AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchases to PHI. More details are available at