Reading in Rural America: Young Minnesota girl bonds with community elders over a shared love of stories
Meet Maggie Kuznia, a seven-year-old Minnesota girl who is spreading joy and building bonds with elderly residents at a rural assisted living facility in her community.
Good Samaritan Society
Good Samaritan Society
In East Grand Forks, Minnesota, a remarkable young storyteller named Maggie Kuznia is weaving tales of friendship, one page at a time. As she embarks on her first-grade journey, Maggie’s infectious enthusiasm for storytelling has found a unique outlet, bringing smiles to the faces of senior residents at the Good Samaritan Society Heritage Grove senior living community.
Kuznia’s day begins with an intriguing question: “Did you know you could eat at the Eiffel Tower?” It is this curiosity and zest for life that makes Maggie an engaging conversationalist on topics ranging from puzzles to ice cream bars and her latest adventures.
However, Kuznia’s storytelling has recently taken a heartwarming turn. Armed with a backpack adorned with Elsa from “Frozen,” Maggie makes her way through the senior apartments at Heritage Grove, unzipping her bag to reveal a treasure trove of books. She sits beside residents like Patti Griggs, 95-year-old Eileen Baird, and 96-year-old Margaret Sondreal, bonding with them as they immerse themselves in the exciting world of books and stories.
Her journey as a young bookworm and storyteller began during snow days when she would accompany her mother, Tiffany Kuznia, to work at Heritage Grove. Last winter, instead of packing her Nintendo Switch, Maggie declared, “I’m going to bring books and read to the residents.” What started as occasional visits on snow days soon transformed into once or twice-a-week summer visits.
Walking hand-in-hand with 96-year-old Margaret Sondreal and reading books like “The Good Egg” has become a cherished routine for Maggie. Her visits have not only enriched the lives of the senior residents but have also significantly bolstered her reading skills.
“It’s helped her tremendously and built up her confidence in reading,” Maggie’s mother, Tiffany, noting the remarkable progress Maggie has made thanks to her dedication to reading as well as her patient group of listeners. Maggie’s love for books has grown exponentially, evident from the way she falls asleep each night with a book in her hands.
Her reading sessions have made her a beloved figure among the senior residents. As she knocks on doors and enters their apartments, it feels like visiting family. Joni Benson, though not Maggie’s grandma, enjoys the warmth of their shared reading sessions.
Former first-grade teacher Patti Griggs is highly impressed with Maggie’s reading skills. Their time spent together is a heartwarming exchange, with Patti providing encouragement and hugs. Maggie herself is grateful for the support she receives from her senior friends.
“I really like it when she helps me out —because it makes me know the words more better,” Maggie said, beaming with happiness.
Griggs believes that Maggie’s inter-generational approach could be a model for others. The bonds formed between young readers and willing senior residents hold immense value, as both generations benefit from the special connection.
Story via KARE11