Reading to the Ladies

The summer is coming to an end and school will start on Tuesday. Along with this will come an end to the daily “reading to the ladies.”

In our neighborhood there are two elderly ladies who have houses side by side. One of them is 89 and the other is 96. They are sisters. The 96 year old has lived here for 70 years. She was widowed in her 40’s and has lived alone since then. The 89 year old has never been married and spent her adult life living in Chicago until 20 years ago when her sister with whom she always lived with died and she came back to the area to be near family.

When we moved here 8 years ago both of the ladies were in fine shape. They mowed their own lawns, tended to their gardens and canned large amounts of vegetables. Through the years their health has deteriorated and we have had to wait patiently for them to return home several times from extended hospital stays. Today they both still live at home but have caretakers who live with them and tend to their care and the housework.

These are two of the sweetest ladies I know. They have watched our family grow and have become a part of our family. We visit with each other and help each other out. My kids think of them as extra grandmas.

This past March, when visiting with the 96 year old, she told me how lonely she had been. All she can do at this point is really just sit and watch television.

That’s when I got an idea. My 7 year old daughter, Iris, loves to read. Being in 1st grade at the time, she didn’t have any homework after school. My kids loved visiting the neighbors but didn’t go every day so I established “reading to the ladies.” Once the 89 year old got wind of the kids reading to her sister she wanted in on it too!

Iris and my 5 year old son, Bency would go to the ladies’ houses every day after school and read to them a few short stories, visit with them and then come home. This has continued throughout the summer almost every day. Iris enjoys doing this because she LOVES reading to people and the ladies enjoy the company of the kids. The caretaker for the 89 year old is a Polish immigrant, speaks broken English, loves to cook and loves my kids too. She is always making up homemade cookies for the kids and fresh popped popcorn on the stove to send home with them after they are done reading!

Once school starts, I’m sure there will be homework so they will only be able to go on the weekends. I’m going to try to keep this going as long as I can because the summer of “reading to the ladies” will always be a wonderful memory!

The Polish caretaker, the 89 year old, the 96 year old, and my husband Alex at one of my kid’s birthday parties

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30 responses

  1. That’s really great. It reminds me of how, growing up, my mom would take my sister and me to the local retirement home, with a homemade cake to celebrate the birthdays of all the residents for that month. Comforting and entertaining the elderly is such an important ministry.

    • Thanks! My mom used to work at a nursing home when I was little and would take me along sometimes to visit with the people. When I was in middle school I started going there by myself to volunteer with bingo and painting the ladies’ nails. Before kids, I had a job in a retirement community and a part-time job at night and on weekends going to elderly/disabled people’s houses to help them out with errands and household tasks! All of it was really rewarding and I learned so much! I hope my children will learn to value and help senior citizens too!

  2. Old folks LOVE children and delight in their visits. You’re a wonderful example to your children. As a retired teacher, you have found a creative way to encourage love for books and reading!

  3. What a sweet thing-a win win for all. I have a friend who works at a local nursing home-we keep saying that we are going to go up there and entertain-visit with and read to the nice folks there. We need to get on the stick and just do it!

  4. I still have memories when I was little, I guess 3 years old, going to Mrs. Wilson’s apartment downstairs and “reading” (I memorized the stories) to her. It made me feel so good to do this, she always acted as if she enjoyed it so much. This will be a great memory for Iris and Bency, too, I’m sure.

  5. This is such a mutually beneficial thing to do – great for the children and great for your neighbours. It is fantastic you are so generous with your children you share them with these ladies – I’m sure it is helping keep their minds agile and feeling a valued part of the community. What a lovely neighbour you are x

  6. Wow, you have a neighborhood that many people can only dream of! I once had an elderly lady down the street from me. I spent lots and lots of time at her house. Cherished memories…

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