Retired educators donate books to 2nd grade classrooms across the county

May 19 — Neither retirement nor a pandemic can stop a group of former educators from getting involved in local classrooms.

Last week, the Cheshire County Retired Educators Association completed the delivery of donated copies of Jory John’s ‘The Good Egg’ to the county’s 46 Year 2 classes, according to member Helen Ann Kelly, who serves as organization’s “reading chair” and oversees the effort.

The program has been running for nearly 15 years, Kelly said — long enough to overlap with her own time as a Grade 2 teacher at Chesterfield Elementary School.

“As soon as I retired, I wanted to read to students and give back,” she said. “Because people had done that for my class.”

This effort is made possible through a collaboration with the Keene Elm City Rotary Club, which provides grants, and Toadstool Bookshop, which provides CCREA with a discount on purchases, Kelly said.

According to Kelly, it takes a lot of consideration to choose a book each year. In addition to discussing options among CCREA members, Kelly said she is coordinating with area 2nd grade teachers and librarians.

Jen Petrovich has been teaching for 20 years and has spent the past six years with Grade 2 students at Wheelock Elementary School in Keene. Although her class has been receiving donations from CCREA for several years, she said “The Good Egg” was one of her favorites for its humor and wholesome message.

Her students loved it too, so much so that all 13 decided, unprompted, to write a thank you note to Kelly.

And while kids always love a new book, the program has bigger, less tangible impacts, according to Petrovich.

“I think the initiative is a great way to spread the love of reading and make a personal connection with a former educator in our community,” Petrovich said.

In non-pandemic years, CCREA members volunteer to visit classrooms and read books given to Grade 2 students themselves. Sometimes the volunteers are parents of students, family friends or former teachers, Petrovich said, and it can be special for adults and children to spend time together in the classroom.

Since the pandemic disrupted donation efforts in 2019, students this academic year have benefited from two book donations from CCREA: “The Good Egg” and “Wild Symphony” by Dan Brown of New Hampshire. The latter was given to 29 county music teachers, Kelly said.

After a decade and a half of giving, CCREA has no plans to slow down – Kelly said she’s already looking at suggestions for next year’s book.

Those interested in learning more about CCREA can visit its website at cheshirecountyretirededucatorsassociation.com.

Molly Bolan can be reached at 352-1234 ext. 1436 or mbolan@keenesentinel.com.

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