Bountiful • Two little girls sit on a couch in the library, reading to an elderly woman in a wheelchair. Another woman sits in curlers with her head under a hair dryer as she is read to and shown pictures. Other students sit in chairs in resident's rooms reading.
The fourth-grade students in Stephanie Feller's West Bountiful Elementary class make the mile trek to Avalon Care Center in Bountiful twice a month to visit with residents.
The program gives 26 fourth-graders the opportunity to serve others, practice their social skills and learn to interact and talk with others.
"They gain reading fluency in the real world," explained Feller.
While some students were a little nervous at first, by November they had all warmed up to the residents and were comfortable interacting.
"They are more willing to break out and talk to others, they just shine here," Feller said.
The youth choose the books they will read. They are assigned to a resident at the beginning of the program and will read to that resident throughout the school year. This allows the students and resident to establish a relationship. If a student is absent on a reading day, a parent volunteer steps in and reads to the resident.
The students also make cards and share artwork with the residents. Some students play the piano. They have plans to write and perform a play for the residents later in the year.
Janine Coltran, a resident at the facility, enjoys visiting with her two readers.
"They are just fabulous, so smart and intelligent," Coltran said.
Annie Salazar, 10, and Sophie Thornock, 9, read to Coltran. Both said they were nervous their first week but quickly warmed up and now look forward to their visits. "I just got to know her, and I really like it," Annie said. "I like reading and talking to her."
Candice Arona and her husband Alex came to the facility as parent volunteers with their daughter Olivia. Candice Arona, a registered nurse, particularly enjoyed visiting because she was a former nurse at the facility.
"I was so excited when Olivia told me about this program. It's great for the residents, but even but even more wonderful for the students,"Candice Arona said.
After the students are finished reading, they meet with the residents in the activity room for a meet and greet and refreshments. The enthusiasm and energy in the room is high. Students shake hands with all the residents and ask them how they are doing and learn about their families and lives.
Lisa Deguenon, therapeutic recreation therapist, is always looking for activities to keep her residents happy and active. She looks forward to having the students in the facility.
"Our folks just love them! They love to listen to them read and just visit with them. The youth are so enthusiastic and vibrant, they add a real energy to the atmosphere," Degunenon said.