Local seniors read to elementary children

Local seniors read to elementary children

From left, Spring Arbor readers include Gerald Rouse, Betty Bruce Lawson, Frederick Graham, Margaret Elkins, Andrew Mozingo (activity director) and Virginia Barnette. Photo by Catherine Hardee / Neuse News

A group of Kinston seniors is on a mission. Their goal is to instill a love of reading in local children at a young age.

Residents of Spring Arbor of Kinston regularly visit several different elementary schools to read to the students. Former teacher Betty Bruce Lawson summed up her reasons for making the trips quite simply.

“Reading is fun, and reading is fundamental,” she said.

A former educator, Lawson believes early encouragement is key to helping kids recognize the importance of reading to lifelong learning. Lawson said she tries to express to them that “the more they read, the easier it will become. The better they get, the more they will enjoy it.”

The activity director at Spring Arbor, Andrew Mozingo, arranges the visits, and he noted that these trips are not always easy for the seniors, but they persevere because of a love of reading and a love for the children.

“I really enjoy going to each school. It’s interesting to see each of the approaches they have with children,” he said.

Former principal Frederick Graham recalled reading to a kindergarten class at Pink Hill Elementary School last week.

“I read to them about the man with 20 hats … and when I finished reading the story to them, all of them got up and hugged my neck,” he said. “That made my day.”

Despite vision problems that make reading more difficult for him, Graham goes whenever Mozingo arranges a trip, because he said he loves children and reading to them.

For Gerald Rouse, humor is key to connecting with the first graders he loves reading to.

“(Rouse) always ends up with the funny books,” Mozingo said. “He loves making the kids laugh.”

Rouse’s humor has a serious purpose. He believes starting early is key to their ongoing success.

“They won’t learn unless they start reading early in life,” he said.

Margaret Elkins and Virginia Barnette also join in on the reading expeditions at times, and they both have fond memories of those who read to them when they were young. They hope to pass on that gift to the children at each school they visit.

The group makes it out to schools about once per month, or more often when their schedule permits. A lifetime of experience has shown each of them the benefits of reading well, and they are sharing their wisdom with one classroom at a time.

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