Intergenerational literacy programs

Here are three examples of successful intergenerational literacy programs (submitted by Sabine Uehlein, Stiftung Lesen)

1.       USA:  Intergenerational penpals write about books in the USA

Connecting young library visitors with elderly people at the Clare Oaks Retirement Community in Bartlett. With this idea in mind started the youth librarian Kimberley Gotches the project Pages Across the Ages at the Bartlett Public Library. Bartlett is an U.S. American town located in Illinois.

Only starting in February 2012, the project has already 49 participants. The idea: Old and young become penpals and write each other letters about the same books they read. Children and parents get aware of this project via the library newsletter, in-house posters, fliers, a display board with all the partner’s pictures and by word-of-mouth. The project has been entirely funded by the library itself. According to Susan Westgate, the library’s assistant director, other libraries have shown interest in imitating the project.


2.       Estonia: Storiegrannies

Storygrannies is a project aimed at the involvement of grandparents in the activities of nursery schools. The project will be launched together with the Grandparents’ Society and day centres for retired people and will comprise joint activities and events involving grandparents (not necessarily biological grandparents of children) and children of pre-school age on a regular basis. The retired people read, tell stories and carry out educational activities.

Goals of the project:

1.            to engage with the experience and skills of the older generation for the purpose of developing children

2.            to increase the quality of life of the elderly by offering them opportunities for communication and activities

3.            to diversify activities in nursery schools

4.            to foster closer contacts between nursery schools and community.


3.       Canada

i2i Intergenerational Society British Columbia, Canada

The ‘i2i’ is an abbreviation of an ‘invitation (i) to intergenerational immersion (2i)’. The i2i Intergenerational Society of Canada, based out of British Columbia, was created in 2008 to assist Canadians in the building of bridges between generations.

As the founder and leader of The Meadows School Project Sharon Mackenzie had become aware of, and concerned about, the increasing alienation between generations in our society. It appeared that various ages of people were growing farther apart, physically, socially, and emotionally, particularly the young and the elderly. As a result of this concern, the Meadows School Project was launched, in Coldstream, B.C.

The Meadows School Project moved the classroom to the Heritage Chapel in Coldstream Meadows Retirement Community. Students moved out of the traditional classroom for five weeks in the fall semester and three weeks in the spring semester, and were placed in an ‘immersion’ situation within the Retirement Community. After this time the integration of seniors and youth continued with bi-weekly cross-over visits for the rest of the school year.

The intent of the project was to begin the dissolution of unspoken beliefs and prejudices held by youth about seniors, and seniors about youth.