March 26, 2014 // 10:22 AM

Garden Spot Villagers Read to Enrich Others

Written by Scott Miller

Volunteerism by the book

Martin Tupper, a 19th-century British author, wrote, “A good book is the best of friends….” Several Garden Spot Village residents are sharing the joy of books with others—introducing them to youngsters and making them accessible to those who have difficulty reading.

The voice of experience

Once a week, Ken Long drives from New Holland to King of Prussia to read and record educational materials for Learning Ally, a non-profit organization that serves more than 300,000 members who cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia or other learning disabilities.

“My background is in science, an area where they have more difficulty getting readers, so I volunteered,” says Long, who has lived at Garden Spot Village since 2009.

Long taught high school science and math for seven years, then taught chemistry and geology at Westminster College for 40 years. He started volunteering with Learning Ally when he lived in Colorado, then picked it up again after he moved to Garden Spot Village and learned that the organization had a recording studio within driving distance. He usually makes the trip weekly and reads for four hours—mostly high school or college-level math and science textbooks. At press time, he was in the process of recording a geology book.

“You not only have to read the text, but you have to describe every photograph and every graph,” he says.

Usually, Long is one of many volunteer readers recording a particular book. He gets his “assignment” when he arrives at the studio and studies any diagrams so he can determine the best way to explain them. Like other Learning Ally volunteers, he underwent training, and Learning Ally checks the recordings before it releases them to its members.

Continuing education

The audio recordings can have a real impact on the lives of those who struggle with reading.

“The evidence is clear. They’ve done studies and found that it really enhances their learning,” says Long. “When people who have some kind of learning difficulty can look at a textbook and hear a recording, it increases their retention by 35 percent.”

Long encourages others to consider volunteering for Learning Ally. The organization needs readers and volunteers in other capacities, and a new online tool called V-Text expands volunteer opportunities for those who can’t drive to the organization’s studios in King of Prussia, Princeton or elsewhere.

“I spent 47 years involved in trying to teach people. I feel like I’m still really making a significant contribution,” says Long.

Read more about Learning Ally.

Raising young readers

Long’s volunteer efforts at Learning Ally serve students in kindergarten through graduate school, veterans and lifelong learners. Another group of residents is helping instill a love of books in an even younger audience. The dozen or so volunteers in the Resident Readers program take turns making monthly visits to the Kinder-Haus Nursery Day Care Center to read books to its young attendees, who range in age from 3 to 5. Some of the volunteers bring props and make story time interactive.

“The children love it,” says Kim Rockelman, director of Kinder-Haus.

“This is a wonderful example of intergenerational sharing. Interactions like these are positive experiences both generations,” says Colleen Musselman, director of life enrichment at Garden Spot Village. The warmth and love flow in both directions, and children learn that books—and older adults—can be fine friends.

Read more at LancasterOnline.

This article was originally published in the 2011 Destination Magazine.

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