Brotherly Love: Reading Program Connects Senior Citizens With Children

Janelle Burrell reports.

Video Transcript

JESSICA KARTALIJA: This week's story of Brotherly Love-- a novel reading program has connected senior citizens with young children virtually. Janelle Burrell has the story.

- After the sun, there's a smiley face.

JANELLE BURRELL: You're looking at Making Friends With Books. It's a program by the Penn Literacy Network, connecting senior adults with young students in grades two and four. Diane Ajl is a retired lawyer turned volunteer reading teacher.

DIANE AJL: We spend a good bit of the time reading and talking about the book and talking about how the book relates to our young reader's life and do some drawing.

JANELLE BURRELL: The program was conceived by Executive Director Bonnie Botel-Shepard. She knew kids and seniors were isolated during the pandemic.

BONNIE BOTEL-SHEPPARD: What's important about this program is that we have volunteer senior adults making literacy connections and relationship connections with young children.

DIANE AJL: What do you think of that yellow there [INAUDIBLE]?

ALEJANDRA RODRIGUEZ: I think it brings happiness.

JANELLE BURRELL: The program has made a big difference to fifth grader Alejandra Rodriguez.

ALEJANDRA RODRIGUEZ: When you read, you can improve your vocabulary.

JANELLE BURRELL: She's a student at St. Martin of Tours School, but had to stay home during the shutdowns.

ALEJANDRA RODRIGUEZ: I feel like sometimes I just pay attention to my phone too much. So to have time to read with somebody feels pretty good.

JANELLE BURRELL: The idea is to connect children and seniors once a week for 30 to 45 minutes over five weeks. It seems like a short time, but Alejandra's mother said it made a big difference.

IRIS SANCHEZ: And she's not saying, but she's got straight As. And I think that part of this program has impacted her grades immensely.

JANELLE BURRELL: And made a big difference to the seniors as well.

DIANE AJL: And to have this experience with someone who I never met before is really wonderful.

JANELLE BURRELL: And now Alejandra is encouraging her family and everybody else to read.

ALEJANDRA RODRIGUEZ: Sometimes they should just take, like, five minutes every day to just pick a book and kind of look and have a calm moment for themselves and take a mental break.

JANELLE BURRELL: The program funding pays for the books and materials as well as salaries for coaches who help facilitate those sessions. Tell us who's spreading smiles in your community at Janelle Burrell, "CBS 3 Eyewitness News."