GENOA – With Ramona Noyes at his side, Matthew Emiliano leaned over the cafeteria table, carefully reading a page from “Haunted New England.”
“My grandfather gave it to me,” the Genoa sixth grader said. “I’ll make a report on it when I’m done.”
Whenever the 11-year-old stumbled over a difficult word, Noyes was there to pronounce it for him.
Noyes is part of a group called the GKMS Reading With the Grannies. According to Genoa-Kingston Middle School health and reading teacher Carol Hencken, who founded the group six years ago, the Grannies give young readers someone to read to, which will hopefully make them better readers.
“Kids need practice,” one of the Grannies, Marj Dreska, said.
The group is made up of 19 senior citizens, all but one from the Genoa-Kingston area, who meet with G-K students twice a week. On Monday mornings, half the group meets with sixth and seventh graders at Genoa-Kingston Middle School while the other half goes to Davenport Elementary School. On Thursday mornings, the whole group goes to Kingston Elementary School.
Hencken said there are two sessions, each about a half hour, with a 10-minute break in between. The middle school students are chosen during their half-hour reading program so it doesn’t interfere with any of their regular classes.
The children who are chosen to read can pick any book they want from the school library.
“It’s a lot different from what we used to read,” said volunteer Barb Worst. “There’s a lot of fantasy and vampires. To us, it may be weird, but to them, it’s interesting. So long as they’re reading, that’s what’s important.”
“The Grannies go with the flow,” Hencken said with a laugh.
“They are friendly with the kids and the kids enjoy talking to them. It’s a nice interaction. They learn a lot.”
“Sometimes, they don’t feel like reading, so we just talk,” Granny Sandra Andersen said.
The women agreed that some of the young readers are very good while others need a little help, which is what they’re there for.
“It’s fun,” Dreska said.
“I really enjoy being around kids,” Worst said. “It’s a good social time for us.”
Although she only knew a few of the other volunteers when she started, Worst said they’re all good friends now. In fact, they meet for coffee a half hour before they’re scheduled at the schools, and often go out for lunch after their sessions are over.
Hencken said the group started with eight volunteers and has more than doubled in size. The Grannies also help out with school fundraisers and knit scarves for the school’s giving tree at Christmas. The group donated $610 to the middle school student council at the start of the school year.
“I think it’s great,” GKMS Principal Brett McPherson said. The program helps students flourish, he said, while easing the work load on busy teachers.