Sweet Readers: Discovery through Art

Organization Associated with Program
Sweet Readers, Inc.
PO Box 1119 NY NY 10128
New York, New York 10128

Sweet Readers is a growing community of middle-school children who are trained to communicate effectively with older adults living with early to mid-stage Alzheimer's disease. Sweet Readers’ collaborative, out-of-the-box programs have a strong foundation in language and the arts and give both young and older participants a creative way to stimulate their brains and feel empowered. The trained children are brought to Discovery Through Art programs prepared to engage their older partners in an intimate group setting. The participating older adults and children participate together in a variety of art-making activities in a range of art forms such as visual arts, poetry, or music. As they investigate and discover language and the arts together, the biggest discoveries they make are of each other.

Participants come from care facilities or private homes, and sessions are held in museums, care facilities, and schools. Sessions run between 30 and 90 minutes (depending on the individual program); there may be a one-time session or continual ongoing programming, depending on the needs and desires of the partnering site. Sweet Readers activities are conducted by a professionally trained teaching artist.
 

Program History

Sweet Readers, a 501(c)3 public charity based in New York City, is a growing community of families who are changing the face of Alzheimer’s disease as they open their hearts and minds to help those in need. The Sweet Readers mission is:

  • To enable children and older adults to learn together, discovering each other, language, and the arts in exciting new ways;
  • To empower a growing community of children to become compassionate leaders, competent community builders, and skilled humanitarians;
  • To teach children skills to raise funds and awareness for those living with Alzheimer’s disease, develop an understanding of scientific research, and help scientists end Alzheimer’s disease; and
  • To expand a growing community and programs across regions and cultures for the greatest impact.

The Sweet Readers Discovery Through Art program was established in 2011 and has served over 100 older adults in the District of Columbia, New York City, and Connecticut. The program was developed to bring together older adults, students, and cultural institutions to customize programs according to the specific needs of each group. The Sweet Readers program is being modeled to be replicated nationally and around the world.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

The Discovery Through Art program is evaluated at the beginning, middle, and end of each session. All participants and staff fill out surveys, and some participants are interviewed. Attendance numbers are recorded. Evaluations, which are conducted by staff of Sweet Readers and representatives of partner organizations, are subsequently used to improve programming.

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Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Viewing Artwork, Presenting a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop
 
 
Arts Discipline: Design, Folk/Traditional Arts, Literature, Music, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Education, Health / Medicine
Target Audience: Caregivers - Family, Caregivers - Professional, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Adaptive Program Design Cognitive Disabilities
Program Setting: Adult Day Care, Arts Organization, Assisted Living, Healthcare - Long Term Care, Healthcare - Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
Program Service Area: Suburban, Urban, Virtual
Type of Practice: Promising Practices