Submitted by eschneider on
AmeriCorps staff

AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparents dust off their books and turn on their tablets to help young students succeed

It’s not just back to school for students, retired seniors are sharpening their pencils and zipping up their backpacks to head back to the classroom as well. AmeriCorps Seniors are preparing to provide invaluable support in the classroom as part of its Foster Grandparents program. These 55-year-old and older volunteers are choosing to stay active and engaged in retirement. They serve as mentors, tutors, and caregivers to children in schools across the country.

One volunteer has created his own book club to bring about positive change in children’s literacy skills.

Affectionally known as “Grandpa Rick,” this Foster Grandparent devoted his time volunteering in two 3rd and 4th grade classrooms in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., last school year. The “Grandpa Rick Book Club,” hosted twice a week during student recess time, motivated kids to read books like The BFG, Hatchet, and Charlotte’s Web. But it’s not just about reading the books. Grandpa Rick assigned students questions to exercise their reading comprehension and led discussions about the stories.

“I tried my hardest to get kids enthused about reading,” says Grandpa Rick. “My first book club started with five kids and over the year we grew to over a dozen.”

And reading scores have shot through the roof, too.

Grandpa Rick and his student book club

Grandpa Rick is looking forward to the upcoming school year. 

Read more about Grandpa Rick’s book club. 

Last school year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, our all-star Foster Grandparents continued to serve. Some Foster Grandparents were pen-pals to students, some volunteered virtually with students, some video-taped stories that can be played for students, and some made phone calls to students.  

In Abilene, Texas, Grandma Judy reads stories to a group of 4- and 5-year-olds. However, instead of being in the same room, she was delivering story time virtually. Using tablets, volunteers read to kids remotely, quiz them on their schoolwork. Judy is part of the Foster Grandparent Program that places senior volunteers as role models, mentors and friends to children. It's a program hosted by  the Texas Health and Human Services, which recently provided tablets to 47 volunteers to continue their service safely during the pandemic 

Grandma Judy reads to kids virtually

Read more about Grandma Judy and how she used technology to connect with her students.

Maintaining the connection between the students and their Foster Grandparents during the pandemic was important to continue connecting communities and generations. The level of care and commitment in chaos shows how AmeriCorps Seniors do so much for their communities.   

And while technology has kept us all close for the last year, Foster Grandparents are ready to go back to school and are eager to help “their kids.” 

If you are a senior or know a senior ready to volunteer, join us!