Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, several residents at Cedarfield, a premier senior living retirement community in Henrico County, have embraced technology to both connect with the outside world and combine their love of books and volunteering.
Since November 2020, the Cedarfield Mentors program has given residents at Cedarfield the opportunity to record themselves reading selected books and stories and share those videos with students at Fair Oaks Elementary School in Highland Springs. These “virtual storytime” sessions are uploaded and accessible for students and faculty at the school. Teachers are then able to share the recordings with their students who complete assignments related to the books.
The concept was the idea of two Cedarfield residents, Martha Cole Glenn and Charlotte Bailey, who wanted to create a partnership with the local school. The program has been a hit with residents and Fair Oaks students and staff alike.
“The school was very open to our interest and we worked together to figure how best to support the new teaching world they were facing,” Glenn said.
“It’s been wonderful,” added Jackie Stevens, associate principal at Fair Oaks, who made the connection to Cedarfield through a friend. “It has bonded east with west, young with old. These are groups that wouldn’t normally run in the same circles, so it’s expanding horizons.”
The successful program now boasts around 40 readers, and organizers are working to expand the Cedarfield Mentors offerings to include other subjects, such as art education and writing skills through a pen pal program.
Caitrin Soltes, Cedarfield’s lifestyles coordinator, said many of the Cedarfield Mentors readers are former teachers and their love of books and reading shows when they read the stories. Both Bailey and Glenn said they hope the program evolves into a long-term relationship with Fair Oaks and are most looking forward to meeting the students in their classrooms as soon as it is safe to do so.
The Cedarfield Mentors were also featured in The Richmond Times Dispatch earlier this year.