Sharing a love of reading

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

Almost a dozen Rainycrest residents sit around a table in the common area, listening attentively to Ruth Caldwell as she takes them on a storytelling journey every week. 

Caldwell, 90, a former 2016 Citizen of the Year, still has a foot in the door at Rainycrest, where she has weekly short story reading sessions with residents. Caldwell has been reading to the residents for years, since she worked at the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre.

“I can’t measure it by years,” Caldwell chuckled. “When I retired, I figured that this was something I could still do.”

Caldwell worked in the library’s children department for 30 years, a job she loved throughout her career.

“I loved working with the children. They started calling me the story lady,” Caldwell said. “When I had story time, I had a little grey-haired doll on my lap, and I’d hold her arms. We had this little verse that we’d start story time with, and when the verse was over, the children were prepared to hear stories, whatever the theme was.”

Caldwell used to read in the common room, but that has changed with the pandemic. She said she sees that the impact of reading can be the same for. both reading to either children – or seniors.

Delsie Cumming, 95, and Ruth Caldwell, 90, having a chat after Caldwell finished reading to Rainycrest residents Saturday morning.
Merna Emara photo

Caldwell likes to pick the book she will be reading based on local relevance. She said residents like it when a name comes up that they are familiar with.

Initially, Caldwell wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, but was stymied because she couldn’t speak French.

“Without French, I could not go into the teaching profession,” Caldwell said. “So I became a secretary. I was secretary for the library board and did their minutes. But when they were talking about the children’s librarian leaving, I asked, ‘Is there a chance that I could apply for that job? ‘And they said yes – so I did. And I loved it for almost 30 years.”

Caldwell said she will continue reading to seniors for as long as she possibly can.

“There’s just a small group of people who live here. I know how I would feel if I couldn’t share books with them.”