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Reading Buddies: Youths make edible tree ornaments as thanks for tutoring


Reading Buddies scamper out of the cold, after decorating the tree in Carolina Village’s main courtyard. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The elders and children alike braved a very chilly wind Thursday morning, as youth decorated a tree. It is in Carolina Village’s primary courtyard, and viewable from the dining room and near the main entrance. One child playfully termed the group “freezing buddies” on this cold morning.

The Hillandale Elementary second-graders are in Susan Justice’s class. She said they spent an hour and half making ornaments two days earlier in class, and that five adults donated supplies and helped supervise the project. The children stuck birdseed onto peanut butter, to stay on bagel halves and pinecones for birds to eat.


Haylie Matheson goes to help decorate the tree in Carolina Village’s main courtyard. She is ushered by her tutor, Revonda Ward. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The food draws the feathered creatures into viewable proximity of Carolina Village (C.V.) residents. Other small wildlife can munch on a string of popcorn, toasted oat cereal and cherries. Floral wire was used for garland, to further decorate the tree.

“I’m sorta proud, for constructing something like this,” Christopher Blake Mills said with a smile.

“This is the real meaning of Christmas — giving,” C.V. Activities Director Betty Hensley said. Justice echoed the theme, of “learning the spirit of giving” and giving back for the tutoring.

The volunteer tutors gave gifts to their respective pupils, Thursday in the C.V. Education Center. Reading sessions are there for an hour, on the first Thursday morning of each month. Children read to and with the same senior adult, each time. Tutors mostly reside in C.V. independent living apartments.

Tutor Joyce Youngblood said it is very rewarding to see her student Mills’ progress in reading. Her daughter Kaye Youngblood teaches in Hendersonville High School.


Shirley Byrd hugs her student, back right, amidst Susan Justice’s second-grade class from Hillandale lining up to leave Carolina Village’s Education Center. They carry gifts from their tutors. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Tutor Shirley Byrd was a nurse for 24 years. Her husband Charlie was superintendent of Hendersonville City Schools. Shirley said a key is to make reading “interesting and fun” for the child. Her student is “easy to work with.”

This girl’s favorite book stories include about a girl who takes “everything too literally.” Mrs. Byrd is impressed that the girl gets extra reading practice daily, at home with her father.

A Reading Buddies bonus is “companionship,” between elder and child and among the tutors, Mrs. Byrd said.

Retired remedial reading specialist Helen Zamplas, now 94, tutored in the program in recent years. “I had a very nice boy. He always worked hard. He improved a lot. We had a good time together.”

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