Salisbury Academy first-graders delight Book Buddies at Trinity Living Center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

On the first Thursday of each month, 22 Salisbury Academy first-graders load onto a small blue and white bus, individually selected books in hand, and ride over to the adult day health facility Trinity Living Center.

Once arrived, the children, often shyly at first, find reading buddies among the 30 or so senior participants present that day. The kids make eye contact with their “Book Buddy” of that visit, have a seat next to them, and begin to read a book to their elderly friend.

Once the connection is made, it’s delightful, says Patty Messick, Program Coordinator for Trinity Living Center.

“The students come in, they find someone, and they’re off and running,” said Messick.

At each of the first-graders’ visits to the center, bonds are forged between generations. Books are shared, friendships develop, and memories come alive for the center’s participants.

“I’ve never seen anything but joy on the participants’ faces when the kids show up to read,” said Christina S. Joyce, executive director for Trinity Living Center.

“Whether the children remind the participants of their own children or of their own childhoods I’m not sure. But whatever it does, it’s certainly a good thing.”

The Book Buddies relationship between Salisbury Academy and Trinity Living Center began over 15 years ago, and is one of 50 community outreach programs that Salisbury Academy engages in every year.

While providing joy and deep satisfaction to the elderly buddies being read to, the program also allows children to practice their newly developed reading skills while discovering the wisdom and friendship that the elderly participants can offer them.

“The children realize how wonderful the generations before them were and still are,” said Joyce, explaining that the impairments and physical limitations that accompany aging can be frightening to children until they can see past the differences.

For Elsie Pitman, 15-year participant at Trinity Living Center, the Book Buddies program is both a rare opportunity to interact with children – something that brings her immense happiness – as well as an opportunity to appreciate the scholarly abilities of her young visitors.

“It’s astonishing that the kids can read as well as they can,” said Pitman. “Their stories are really good.”

In testament to the value of the Book Buddies program, the elderly participants were not the only ones with positive reflections from a recent Book Buddy interactions. The first-graders, too, left Trinity Living Center with wide smiles and an extra skip in their steps.

Salisbury Academy first-grader Halle Laferriere provided a fitting summary for the visit.

“We were going there to read and make them smile, but they made us smile,” she said.