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Salt Creek Students Share Stories with Seniors

June 6, 2017

It all began with a stroke of genius – “genius hour,” that is.

At Salt Creek Elementary, Teacher Laura Bald’s fifth grade class, with help from Innovative Learning Coach Amanda Hager, began participating in “genius hour,” where students are encouraged to identify their passion and develop a goal related to it. Students then research and continue to create and develop their goals, and share their projects with other students.

Ariana Trausch, a student in Bald’s class, “is an avid reader with a kind heart and an affinity for helping others,” according to Bald.

While visiting a cousin in Indiana recently, Trausch noticed a small free library housed outside a local community center. She thought it was a great idea, but didn’t think any more about it until genius hour began at her school, and the challenge was issued to identify and share a passion. Trausch, who self-admittedly used to consider reading a chore to be tolerated last year, has blossomed into an eager reader who sees reading “almost as fun as being outside.” She quickly credited her teachers with her change in viewpoint about reading and wanted to be a catalyst to help others do the same.

Trausch therefore decided as her passion project, she would create her own “little library” to help other people discover the wonder of reading. The library would be housed at an off site location, which she would restock, to help others become actively involved in reading books just for the love of it.

Trausch gave a lot of thought as to the best place for her library and researched local community locations. She reached out to several that weren’t interested before her mom noticed a playground at Alexian Village, an assisted living facility in Elk Grove. Trausch thought that having a little library on site there, stocked with children’s books, would provide the opportunity for grandparents to read to their grandchildren or even great-grandchildren. She also wanted to stock it with books for adults the residents could also read and enjoy.

“Our class was absolutely thrilled when we heard the news that Alexian Village wanted to work with Ariana,” said Bald.

Bald’s husband, Mike, actually built the little library to be housed at Alexian Village. When Trausch came up with her idea for the little library, “I had her call up Mr. Bald and ask if he’d help,” said Bald.

”Ariana was so passionate and motivated to bring her idea to life,” said Mr. Bald. “I was thrilled to be able to contribute to such a great project.”

Once the little library was in place at its new home, Trausch shifted her focus to sharing her love of reading. Every two weeks, she goes to Alexian Village and restocks the books, which are donated by her family members and which Trausch purchases used from Goodwill and other locations. She also selects a book to read to the residents each time she visits, including everything from picture books to chapters of longer stories. She first offers a refresher to the residents, so they can pick up where the story left off and new residents can still come and enjoy the experience.

Perhaps best of all, the little library has helped forge a partnership between Salt Creek Elementary and Alexian Village that has evolved into something even more than sharing a love of reading. When Bald and her husband attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the library at Alexian Village, Bald started talking about her students to Andi Rothenberg, the community life coordinator. They discussed what a great experience it would be for both residents and students to have field trips to visit each other off site.

On Friday, May 26, that experience was brought to life when Bald and her entire classroom had a walking field trip to visit the residents at Alexian Village, which is only slightly over a mile away. The students had the opportunity to read, perform a craft project, and play games with residents, and then have an “interview” lunch.

Rothenberg was happy that Trausch chose their community for her library project, because it created the opportunity for her teacher and fellow students to meet the seniors and see the possibilities of a beneficial partnership. By all accounts, the event on May 26 was an all-around success. Trausch said that while the students were at first unsure of what it would be like, it went extremely well and “no one wanted to leave.”

When asked if there was any message she’d like to share about the whole experience, Trausch quickly rattled off a list of people she wanted to thank at dizzying speed, including teachers, Mr. Bald, administration members, Alexian Village staff, her classmates, and those who donate books.

Rothenberg was also extremely pleased with the outcome of the first visit to her residents. “I continuously heard that the students were such a wonderful, polite, helpful group of kids,” Rothenberg said. “Their energy from the moment they walked in was unbelievable. They immediately connected with the folks here, and the kids all had such patience and enthusiasm during their visit. During lunch, the kids were extremely helpful in getting the seniors’ lunches out to them, before they thought of themselves.”

Interested in donating books to Alexian Village? Rothenberg welcomes donated books for the residents. You may donate books by contacting her at 847-437-8070 or dropping books off with the concierge at any time. They are especially in need of large print books for the seniors with vision concerns.


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