Senior Center starts reading program

Published 9:21 am Tuesday, July 7, 2015

“How do you catch a squirrel?”
“Climb a tree and act like a nut.”
“Why does Minnie love to drink hot chocolate?”
“Because she is a cocoa-nut.”
And, by the time seventh grader Raelyn Tester finished reading “Walt Disney’s Goofy Joke Book” aloud to senior volunteer Iris Ellis during a new summer reading program at the Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center Monday, they were indeed nuts for each other.
“We’re taking turns,” Tester said. “We’re learning how to share.”
Ellis was laughing and smiling the whole time she sat with Tester.
“She’s a very, very smart girl,” Ellis said.
Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center Director Kathy Dula was happy to see the children making friends with seniors in the community.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done this,” she said. “I think the kids like the attention.”
Emily Whitlock, Boys and Girls Club youth development professional, was excited to provide the children with a chance to give back to the community.
“It’s hard to have one-on-one time with all of the children,” she said. “This is just a big benefit for them. I could not have asked for this to be more perfect.”
Dula was happy to help create such a sweet and precious moment in the lives of those who participated.
“The children, I have to say, I’m very impressed,” she said. “They are very well-behaved, polite and respectful to the seniors.”
The children are used to receiving new information in school, but the program provides a chance for the children to teach someone else something new.
“The adults just love being around the children,” Dula said. “They are so patient with them.”
The seniors also may help fill gaps in the children’s lives by being another role model.
“This really helps their reading skills, but also some of the children don’t have fathers or grandparents” Dula said. “Some of the children may not have someone to read to them at home or they are too busy to stop to read a book. This gives them that opportunity.”
The idea spurred from a conversation between Dula and Elizabethton/Carter County Boys and Girls Club Director Ginny Wright at a United Way meeting.
“We’re both United Way agencies,” Dula said. “She did a presentation about how to help kids get ready for school in fall and keep them from getting behind in the summer.”
While this is the first time the two agencies have partnered for a reading program, this isn’t the Senior Center’s first time hosting one.
“We did a program a couple of years ago for first graders at East Side Elementary,” Dula said.
Dula and Wright collaborated to create the program, which aims to bridge the gap between the students’ school years and generations of people living in the community.
“This is multigenerational,” Dula said. “They all enjoy it.”
Around 17 volunteers showed up to participate, Dula said.
“Since we weren’t sure if we would have enough adults, we set up a little craft table,” Dula said. “This way they can color or do word searches while they wait their turn to read.”
A second program will be held at the Senior Center on July 27.
“We will definitely be doing this again,” Dula said. “I just think this is a big success. We’re going to try to do this every summer.”
Any seniors interested in volunteering may contact Dula at the Senior Center by calling 543-4362.

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