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Read to Me forges bonds, bridges gap
Students spend time reading to seniors
WEB Read 1
Shardejah Newberry, left, reads to Sandra Squire on Wednesday as part of the sixth annual Read to Me event, which aims to connect generations through literacy. - photo by Photo provided.

The term spring break usually conjures images of toes in the sand and playground fun, but some members of Project Reach G.A.N.G. took time this week to connect with senior citizens.

About 20 students registered to participate in the sixth annual Community Read to Me event, where young people sit down and read with their neighbors and relatives, according to group director Lavonia LeCounte.

“The program was designed to give the children an extra incentive — something to do during the summer — but we decided to move it the last couple of years to spring break,” LeCounte said. “It’s another community service that we do to inspire the young people to get out in the community and help the senior citizens.”

One reader, 10-year-old Liberty Elementary School student Shardejah Newberry, said she read to her grandmother and to someone in her community over two days.

“You should try it. It’s fun, and it’s a way to get out of the house instead of spending time in the house all day,” Shardejah said of the experience.

LeCounte, who tagged along with some of the readers, said she saw both the readers and senior citizens benefit from the experience.

“As children get older, they tend to leave the older ones aside, and the older ones, they get lonely, and they get excited when younger people come in,” she said.

One woman, Geneva Jones, was thrilled to see her granddaughter, Alisha Miller, take the time to visit with her one-on-one.

“(Jones) said, ‘It made me feel so special,’ and in fact, that was the first time her granddaughter sat down and read with her,” LeCounte said. “A lot of our senior citizens, they’re home by themselves now, so just to have other people come in and spend a few moments with you, that’s worth a lot. … They all said they felt special.

“Miss (Ella Mae) Minnieweather, she was so excited when those kids got through, she wanted to give them money,” LeCounte said. “I said, ‘No, you can’t pay them for this. This is something that they’re doing from the bottom of their heart.”

The event also gave the elder participants a chance to reflect on and share their life experiences.

The elders encouraged children to seize their opportunities and to make school a priority, she said.

Participants in the program filled out forms that accounted for their time reading, their performance and whether they would participate again. High school students who participated received community service hours for their time.

“The wisdom that is gained from this is young people are learning new ways of doing things. They’re learning about the past of the senior citizens, the things that they went through,” LeCounte said. “They’re imparting that wisdom into them to make good use of what you have, the time that you have, the resources that you have.”

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