Senior Moment: Kids want to read!
Contributed by Dave Gilbert
In 2016, North Creek Elementary teacher Lydia Weid suggested Chelsea senior citizens might inspire young readers by listening to them read. The idea took hold, and several volunteers visited interested elementary classes. The early readers responded eagerly to their ‘Senior’ tutors, happily sharing their reading skills, receiving personal help, and enjoying the interaction with another generation. It was no surprise that the program continued.
Early this year, the school sought to revive the popular and successful activity. Dick Dice, a Chelsea resident and early member of the program, reached out to the Chelsea Senior Center, Chelsea Retirement Community, and the local Silver Solutions Network. More than a dozen volunteer “listeners” responded, including several retired teachers.
Heather Hay, the first-grade teacher who now coordinates the program at North Creek, says, “Teachers use many tools to help young readers discover the joys of reading, but everyone can use some help along the way toward achieving skill and confidence.”
With the coordinator assigning an adult listener to each participating class and each teacher providing a list of students, the listeners track who has read and who has not. Using a silent ‘tag team’ approach, each student who has read their book is asked to tap the next student, who chooses a book to bring over to the reading area.
Linda Fox, a recent recruit, reports that when she arrived at her assigned class, one of the children demanded: “Whose grandma are you?” Linda says the students are enthusiastic about the program and gather around her when she arrives, eager to share their books.
This year, with more volunteers than time slots at North Creek, a new idea is to extend the scheme to South Meadows Elementary in the fall. Principal Stacie Battaglia notes that some classrooms currently partner with different grades for reading/writing activities. Senior volunteers working with students who need reading practice could enhance their skills.
The first alums from this project will soon graduate from middle school, carrying with them fond memories of how their love of reading began through an encounter with a volunteer ‘grandma or grandpa’ in first grade.
The Senior Moment feature highlights opportunities for older adults through the Chelsea Senior Center and related organizations