Sweet Readers was born out of need and inspired by the beautiful relationship which developed between Sophie Young and her grandmother when Sophie began to read to her Grandma Dorothy.
That relationship extended to a larger community of older adults because of young Sophie’s determination to make a difference and the open, receptive hearts of program directors and participants. Here’s the story….
In 2009, Karen Young brought her then 85 year old mother into Manhattan from her Westchester home of 40 years. It was a dramatic intervention and as Karen juggled managing her mother’s and then nine year old daughter Sophie’s changing needs, Sophie found it increasingly difficult to connect with her grandmother.
By the summer of 2010, Karen’s mom was settled into her lovely new home and surrounded by a “village” of support. Karen’s mom was also immersed in six days of stimulating programming, including Pilates, Thai Chi and Strong Bones classes, ground-breaking Access programs at The Met, MoMA and the American Folk Art Museums and dancing to live music weekly at a wonderful temple seniors program. The transition was successful but Karen’s mom started to suffer from sundown syndrome, getting depressed in the evenings, missing her husband and her home in the country and finding it difficult to sleep soundly.
A Magical Connection Between Three Generations
Even though Karen’s mom is a bright, educated intellectual, Karen counterintuitively brought Sophie’s children’s books to her mother’s new home and began reading them to her mother at night. Soon Sophie joined in, reading such favorites as: Goodnight Moon, Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!, Rolie Polie Olie, May I Bring a Friend? and Caps for Sale. A magical connection began as Karen’s mom recalled reading to her five children and Karen, Sophie and Dorothy began reading the books together, outloud, finishing each other’s sentences. Soon the sundowning stopped and Dorothy began sleeping soundly.
Reading At The Day Program
The process was so empowering and gratifying, Sophie asked if she could share the experience with the other seniors at her grandmother’s day program. Sophie received enthusiastic applause and was asked to return “as often as possible!”. Sophie and Karen began experimenting with different reading materials and handouts; sometimes reading books, sometimes poems and sometimes original poems written for works of art which were color copied and distributed to the audience. The process has been joyful for all!
Building A Community
It occurred to Sophie and her mother that if they could develop a community of middle school aged children, they could share this kind of magic with and help a lot of families and maybe even change the face of Alzheimer’s and raise significant funds for research in the process.
Karen reached out to the museum program directors where her mother was active and after meeting with Karen and Sophie, they all happily agreed to create pilot programs with Sweet Readers (named because the key seemed to be the sweet voices of the readers and the meaningful connections they sparked).