Framingham 8th Grader Develops Reading Programs For Youth Staying Long-Term in Hospitals

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By Caroline Gordon

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FRAMINGHAM – Elizabeth Paolini, an eighth-grader at TECCA, developed “Smiles Through Stories,” a
project where her peers record themselves reading books to be shown to 3- to 8-year olds at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

TEC Connections Academy Commonwealth Virtual School (TECCA) is an online school that serves students in grades K–12. TECCA is largest online school in the state, students from each and every county of Massachusetts attend for free.

“Smiles Through Stories” began as a social studies assignment that called for students to create a civics project that addresses a community need.

Among those participating in the Smiles Through Stories program are boys from Cub Scout Pack 5 of Framingham, Girl Scout Troop 6462, and her mother and sisters.

Paolini said she chose to create a project for kids, who are staying long-term in hospitals, as she sympathizes with the struggles they face while in long-term care.

“I’ve always loved reading – it’s always been a good thing for me. So, I thought I could share that love of reading with other kids to make their hospital stays more enjoyable,” she said. “If you developed a love of reading when you are little, it stays with you your whole life.”

In addition to the videos helping patients, the kids who record the videos are also benefiting as they are learning the power of community service while honing their reading skills, she explained.

Paolini said she does not know anyone, who has undergone a long-term hospital stay.

The Framingham resident reached out to many hospitals in the Boston area, but chose to partner with Spaulding because it is a bigger rehabilitation center with more patients in long-term care.

If the partnership with Spaulding is successful, Paolini said she plans on reaching out to other hospitals to expand the project.

Paolini said TECCA has supported her through the creation of the project noting how the virtual classroom helped her build communication skills, such as emailing.

Child Life Specialist at Spaulding Leah Terrill said it has been “great working with Elizabeth. She’s been on top of everything. She comes with a lot of ideas and a lot of answers.”

“I love her idea because reading is so important to the development of children. And, in the hospital, we are working with kids to get them back to their appropriate developmental level after an injury or illness,” said Terrill.

Paolini demonstrates skills of a leader, she added.

“She is very creative, very inventive, and willing to put in the work to get something done.”

Terrill said she would “love” to see Smiles Through Stories expand. “It’s been a real pleasure working with Elizabeth.”

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Caroline Gordon, a spring 2021 SOURCE intern is a senior English major with a concentration in journalism at Framingham State University. Gordon is the Arts and Features editor for Framingham State’s student newspaper, The Gatepost. During her free time on campus, she works as a Student Desk Attendant. Caroline enjoys photography, working out and spending time with friends. Connect with Caroline on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/caroline-gordon98

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