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Posted on September 1, 2021 by Christine Crosby in BabyRead, grandparents, literacy, retirement, volunteer

Looking To Achieve Purpose in Retirement? Try BabyRead

Looking To Achieve Purpose in Retirement?


In the Spring 2021 edition of Grand Magazine, the article ‘Purpose is Key to Successful Retirement’ focused on what makes for a happy retirement.  The article cited the findings of Edward Jones’ and Age Wave’s latest study, “The Four Pillars of the New Retirement: What a Difference a Year Makes”.  The study shows that 92% of retirees agree that purpose is key to a successful retirement.  Eighty-seven percent say that being useful actually “makes them feel youthful”.

At the age of 65, I was a very happy retiree.  I took up playing bridge.  I joined a neighborhood ladies’ group that visited museums and art exhibits, attended stage performances, and explored the nearby mountains and other sights in our area.  Being an avid reader, I could finally read as much as I wanted.  But something was missing.  I didn’t have the same sense of purpose and achievement that my career had given me for the previous 28 years.

A surprise phone call one morning provided the answer to my quest for purpose – a quest I didn’t even know I was pursuing.  A friend called and told me about BabyRead®, stating that I was the perfect person to join that newly formed organization.  Of course, I was leery.  I had been “tied down” for twenty-eight years.  I was enjoying the freedom of setting my own schedule for the first time in nearly three decades.  However, I followed through, talked with the founder of BabyRead®, and decided to give it a try.

Finding purpose often starts with some self-reflection – thinking about the talents and gifts we each possess, yet often take for granted, and then finding a way to share those talents with others.  Talents don’t need to be bold or showy skills, but rather the personal attributes we have that can enrich the lives of others. Let me give you an example.

“You, too, can find purpose in a similar activity.”

BabyRead®, a “home-grown” organization in Oconee County, South Carolina, is addressing the issue of literacy and school-readiness in young children.  Caren von Hippel, Ph.D., our founder, took note of the fact that 57% of Oconee County children from birth to age 5 are living in poverty and 70% of kindergartners are considered “not ready” for school.  Buying children’s books is generally not a priority for families trying to make ends meet with limited budgets.  And often these families are not aware of the importance of reading to children from birth, and its association with brain development. This became Caren’s call to action and the mission of BabyRead®.

Photo courtesy of ZerotoThree

Also of note is that 20% of the Upstate area’s population is over 60 years of age, many of whom are grandparents whose grandchildren do not live close by. These grandparents are missing lap time and hugs and kisses from little ones!  In response to these facts, Caren founded BabyRead®, pairing volunteers with families.

BabyRead® welcomes families with children from birth to two years old.  They are assigned a Family Reader volunteer who participates one on one with the family. They meet twice a month to read books, sing songs, perform fingerplays and recite nursery rhymes.  We always meet in public places such as a public or an elementary school library.  Most of our families continue to meet with their Family Reader until their child enters school at the Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten level.  As we have been meeting with families for over six years, we have a few “graduates”.

Our public-school teachers tell us that BabyRead® children exhibit a readiness for school that many other children within the same socio-economic groups do not. Did you know that 2 in 3 American third-graders can’t read at grade level?  Because life success is directly tied to the ability to read, the future of millions of kids is on the line every year.  We are so proud to know that our actions are helping children be successful in school and, therefore, have a greater chance of being successful in life.

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You, too, can find purpose in a similar activity.  You can give the gift of reading to underprivileged children in your area.  If you start asking around among your friends, you’ll find many of them willing to give an hour or two of their time twice a month to promote literacy and, ultimately, fight poverty.  BabyRead® has been fortunate to be “adopted” by local churches, service clubs, and individual angels as well as to have received several grants from large charitable donors, so we purchase books for our volunteers to use in their family sessions.  Additionally, we give the child an age-appropriate book to take home at each meeting.  However, there is no need to make this type of financial investment.  If you have a public library, you can always borrow books from the library to read to little ones.  AND introduce their caregivers to the library.  Many of these families have no idea that the library is free or how to obtain a library card.

Six years later, I continue to be so grateful for my friend’s phone call and for my decision to join this wonderful organization.  I still play bridge and join in my community’s entertaining activities, but I have the personal satisfaction that I am contributing to the future of our nation by helping to form the next generation of citizens in a positive manner.

RETIREMENTIf you want more details as to how to start an organization similar to BabyRead® in your community, contact Caren von Hippel, Ph.D., our Founder, and President, at babyread@charter.net or visit our website at www.babyread.org.  Caren would love to talk with you!



RETIREMENTJanice lives on beautiful Lake Keowee in the Upstate of South Carolina, along with her husband of fifty-plus years.  They enjoy being near the Blue Ridge Mountains and share a love of boating, traveling, and restoring and showing classic cars.  They have two married daughters and three grandchildren, all of whom have been good about quarantining during the Covid pandemic to visit with them every few months

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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