When retired high school teacher Judy Patterson reentered the classroom, it was to tiny desks and chairs and a chorus of little voices. The Kindergarten classroom at Colonial Park School in Stoneham has been Judy’s favorite spot ever since—a place where she spends one day a week working intensively with small groups of five-year-olds on their reading comprehension skills.

“It surprised me how much I absolutely love it!” Judy said. “I retired alone in my own home. Rather than sitting home alone, I volunteer my time. Now I see the kids around town, at the supermarket, at the playground and I hear ‘Hi Mrs. Patterson!’ I have this wonderful group of little friends.”

Through Mystic Valley Elder Services’s Reading Partners program, Judy and 75 other older adults from all walks of life spend approximately four hours each week in Kindergarten and elementary school classrooms across the Mystic Valley region. The Reading Partners deliver hands-on learning and activity support in classrooms.

Judy, as a former high school teacher, didn’t realize how often teachers need to assess even the youngest students. “I was struck by how many benchmarks the students have to achieve. I thought Kindergarten students would be playing with building blocks!”

Teachers have found the Reading Partners tutors to be a tremendous help in the classroom. Surveyed at the end of this school year, the educators reported that 94% of students working with Reading Partners showed improvement in their literacy skills.

Of course, one of the biggest impacts of the program is found at the individual student level. When one student was asked about his favorite memory of his year in Kindergarten, it was Judy Patterson, with her gray curls and book bag that he painstakingly drew.

Judy was happy to endorse the program to other area seniors, as well. “Just try sitting and reading with the kids. I think you’ll be hooked!” Judy also stressed that formal teaching experience was not required, as comprehensive training is provided for all of the volunteers.

For more information on becoming a Reading Partner, contact Mystic Valley Elder Services at 781-324-7705 or fill out an online inquiry form.

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