Iowa Teen Connects Elderly Readers With Orphans
“It touches me to the point to tears to know she has such a heart for the elderly and the orphans” – Karla Bicknese, Emily’s mother.
Photo: Meredith Hines-Dochterman
18-year-old Emily Bicknese started a program, ‘Grandma, Will You Read to Me?’, at a nursing home in Elgin, Iowa. The program links up elderly readers with orphaned children around the world.
The idea came up when one of the residents at the nursing home that Bicknese was volunteering at told her that she was sad that she couldn’t give back something to the world. So Bicknese created a program in which nursing-home residents are recorded reading children’s books aloud, and then those books, paired with the edited recordings, are sent to orphanages around the world to countries like Nigeria, Myanmar, India and Kenya. Last summer, more than 60 books and CDs have been recorded and sent.
“One of my favorite memories as a child was being read to by my grandparents,” Bicknese told the Gazette. “With this project, the adults were able to experience gratification from helping a child overseas and the children received something personal created just for them.”
The idea has earned Bicknese a couple of scholarships – Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program and Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award.
“I look at it like two bookends, two different life spans on two different sides of the world, and this project brought them together, with the books in the middle.” - Aaron Bicknese, Emily’s father.
Bicknese’s idea also inspired her home-school group to start recording books for single moms in their community.
Bicknese plans to study music education at the University of Northern Iowa this fall.