Intergenerational reading program at Crescent Park Elementary School
Crescent Park School has a new senior volunteer reading program, thanks to a collaborative effort between CPS and the Bethel Senior Citizens Club.
The one-to-one intergenerational program, between a volunteer and a student in grades two through four, started in early December. The goal of the program is to help students develop more confidence in their reading skills.
Club Vice President Fran Head, who organized the program, said she got the idea after listening to her fourth-grade grandson read at home and seeing how much he enjoyed the activity.
With the approval of the Bethel Senior Citizens Club as sponsors, she approached Principal Levi Brown at CPS and received his enthusiastic support. He met with all the teachers involved and they were eager for volunteer help.
With plans in place, five members of the Senior Citizens Club signed up for the new program.
Supt. David Murphy readily approved the new program. “When can you start?” he asked.
Brown set up procedures for the program to start in December.
Brown coordinates the program with the teachers and tells the office staff who has requested the help of volunteers. The staff greets the volunteers when they sign in and introduces them to the teachers.
Interested senior volunteers apply at the CPS office and complete an SAD 44 form, which allows background checks and provides pertinent information on all volunteers.
Meg Steven, Title I Reading, gives all volunteers an orientation, emphasizing the need to be positive and encouraging to the students and to maintain confidentiality. Steven is also very enthused about the program. She has high praise for the volunteers and said it’s important for the senior generation to be invested in the youth.
Head coordinates the team of senior volunteers, which include, in addition to Head, Arlene Lowell, Sandra Gunther, Elizabeth Gilbert, Denise Swan, and Linda Taylor. Two more seniors are expected to start soon. Head maintains a schedule with one or two volunteers going to CPS on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 to 10 a.m.
All senior volunteers agree that they are getting as much out of the program as the children do. Because some of the kids do not have grandparents in the area, volunteers may serve as “foster grandparents.” Gina Lavoie, one of the second grade teachers, said all her kids “love having the Grammies visit and are excited to see who goes to read first.”
Head said the teachers do not always have the time to listen to each student read aloud.
“The teachers really appreciate our help and I feel we’re doing something with kids that is very rewarding for us,” she said. The kids feel very special when I listen to them read. It’s a joy to be around them.”
Other volunteers and teachers echo Head’s comments. Elizabeth Gilbert said, “The kids enjoy it as much as we do. I got a hug from a little girl last week.”
Second grade teacher Alice Lee said, “The kids love it. It gives them extra reading practice reading one-to-one and gives them a good boost of confidence.”
Volunteer Denise Swan believes the practice of reading aloud to someone is very helpful to the students.
Jacqueline DeLallo, another second grade teacher, agrees that just having someone else listen to the kids reading is very worthwhile.
Sandra Gunther, a retired bus driver after 40 years and volunteer, said she “just loves kids.” She added, “I enjoy being part of this program and am totally amazed at how young the kids are learning their grammar along with so many complicated words. It means so much to me to listen to them and know they are doing so well.”
Brown said he is very impressed with the interest and success of the program. He said, “Fran and the senior citizen volunteers are a great asset to our school. Our kids look forward to their visits each week. The more opportunities our students have to read aloud, the more confident readers they become. We owe a debt of gratitude to Fran Head for being the driving force behind this important opportunity.”
Arlene Lowell, volunteer, enjoys the program and encourages anyone interested to give it a try. Head is anxious to talk with any senior interested in joining the program. She emphasized that volunteers do not have to be members of the Bethel Senior Citizens Club.
“If we are able to recruit more volunteers,” she said, “we can be more helpful to teachers in the reading program and may also be able to expand to helping with math and spelling.”
Anyone interested may call Head at 207-824-2214.