New Lenox mom forms Facebook group for seniors, kids to read together virtually

NEW LENOX, Ill. (WLS) -- A New Lenox mother wanted to encourage her children to read while staying connected in this new stay-at-home world. The result of her effort has sparked imagination and created new friendships nationwide.

Melinda Green, a former social worker, started the "Virtual Reading Heroes" group on Facebook. She began by inviting young people to upload videos of themselves reading a favorite book, but soon some of the adults wanted to read.

"It was really just a response to COVID-19 and just being able to develop a program that would allow school-age children who are now out of school and not connected through reading to seniors who are isolated," Green said.

"I've not had a chance to read much, my grandkids are all in Ohio and so I saw it as an opportunity to actually read some stories to kids," said Susan Fronek, a retired speech pathologist.

The group has snowballed to more than 1,100 members all over the country and now includes both reading and performances online.

"It's a way for them to kind of get excited because they get to have a performance and show off their reading skills and share those stories with other people," mom Kristin DeBoer said.

That includes people like Raymond Doonan, an 89-year-old Navy veteran who reads stories to the kids from his nursing home in Rhode Island.

"Since they can't do group activities anymore, we had to kind of think out of the box for a different way to kind of keep them going with their books," said Dawn Sirois, a nursing home activities director.

It's keeping both generations going through all of this, connecting and feeling joy.

"I enjoy reading to people around the world!" said Caleb Green, 7.

"Oh yes, I enjoy it," added Doonan.

They are always looking for more readers. If you want to join in, check out "Virtual Reading Heroes" on Facebook.
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