Story time event allows youngest and oldest generations to connect

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Midland Care's Kirsty Elliott, left, reads at Elizabeth Ballard Community Center on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, while Ken Koger entertains preschoolers during a monthly story time event.

A reading program between Midland Care and the Elizabeth Ballard Community Center allows the oldest and youngest generations of Lawrence to enjoy each other’s company.

Once a month, some seniors receiving health care from Midland Care read a short story to the children of the Ballard Center preschool. The program, which is a little more than two years old, allows seniors to remain engaged in the community, said Kirsty Elliott, life enrichment specialist for Midland Care and organizer of the program.

“It’s a wonderful group of seniors in here who still want to be viable parts of their community,” she said at Midland Care on Monday. “It gives me goosebumps.”

Normally, the children walk a few blocks from the Ballard Center to Midland Care to hear the stories and hang out with the seniors at the facility, but on Monday it was too cold for the children to make the trek. Instead, Elliott and senior readers Ken and Chris Koger took the story time to the children.

Ken, who has been participating in the program for about eight months, read the holiday classic “The Night Before Christmas” to the excited children, making sure they could see all of the images and understand all of the words before moving to the next page. After he was done reading, the children sang “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Their singing must have reached the man in the North Pole, because Santa immediately walked into the room to visit with the cheering children, sharing candy canes and advice: Don’t be naughty.

Elliott said she came up with the idea for the monthly event because all of her children participated in the Lawrence Public Library story time programs. She reached out to the library, who helped get the program started.

Elliott said she thought it would be a good way to connect generations.

“The joy these kids bring to our center, and just how much they get out of coming here and being around the seniors, is amazing,” Elliott said. “It’s a wonderful experience.”

Danielle Wellman, education director for the Ballard Center, said the preschool loves the program because it gives the children an opportunity to have more positive adult role models in their lives.

“It’s a good source of relationship for these kids,” she said. “Plus they have a lot of fun.”

Ken said he enjoys the reading program because it’s a win-win situation for the children and the seniors.

“It’s really wonderful for us, from a selfish standpoint, because it gives us the chance to see and learn from other generations,” he said. “For the younger generation, it helps them as well because it creates more of an interest in reading, caring and learning.”

It may also may help the children understand life in “the October years” of life, he said.

For Chris, the enjoyment comes from seeing the smiles on the children’s faces while they read to them.

“I hope they see the same in me when I’m reading,” she said.


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