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West Liberty-Salem reading program earns volunteer service award

The Second Grade Reader Program at West Liberty-Salem Schools received the Excellence in Volunteer Service Award from LeadingAge Ohio.

The school was nominated by Green Hills Retirement Community. Green Hills belongs to LeadingAge Ohio, a state association of not-for-profit organizations serving older Ohioans. Each year during its annual conference is an awards ceremony to recognize those who do good work.

(Pictured: West Liberty-Salem students and staff at the awards ceremony. Retired second grade teachers Lynette Heath and Barb (Smith) Trimble are holding the award.)

The second grade reader program has been in existence for 35 years.

For years, there have been statewide initiatives such as Ohio Reads and No Child Left Behind to encourage school children to do more reading. It’s a simple concept; the more reading you do, the better you become.

Long-time teacher Virginia Barrett thought it might be a fun project to have her second grade students at West Liberty-Salem Elementary Schools read to the residents in the nursing home just up the road at Green Hills Retirement Community.

She contacted Green Hills and spoke with the activity director at the time. To prepare the students for their visit to the nursing home, the activity director met with the children and explained to them what they might see and learn about the special needs of older adults. It’s not every day that a youngster encounters wheelchairs and walkers. The students learned that it was not polite to stare but to treat everyone with respect.

One of the effects of reading to someone is the potential that your audience will fall asleep. One teacher who also participated in the program remembers the conversation, “Remember when your parents would read to you and you fell asleep? With the residents, it is the same thing.”

The date is marked on the campus calendars, so when the time comes, residents from all areas of the campus gather in Foundation Hall to develop special relationships with the little people with the little voices and hear the little stories that they have to share.

The program continues to be a great fit for Green Hills as the facility already offers child care to the public for those with children six weeks old to six years old. Having another age group just adds to the cross-generational experiences that are already taking place at Green Hills.

It is these visits in which the children not only learn to appreciate their elders but also seek other opportunities to visit. They return either with the marching band, the choir, volunteering through National Honor Society or by seeking a part-time or full-time job helping their older friends.

Twice a month during the school year for the past 30 years, a school bus of anxious children visit Green Hills to share an adventure that can only be found in a good book.

Green Hills hosted a recognition Friday morning to salute the students and staff. CEO Mike Ray led the presentation.

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