One Show hero Harri books his classmates in for fun session with care home residents

A schoolboy has achieved his dream of introducing his classmates to the care home residents he loves reading his favourite stories to.

Harri Shone spends many spare hours after school reading his storybooks to residents at Pendine Park’s Highfield care home, in Wrexham, where his mum, Laura shone is a senior care practitioner.

He has earned a reputation as a local hero for his volunteering stints and in the run up to World Book Day 2024 he even appeared on BBC television’s The One Show to talk about his love of reading.

Harri said his dream is to inspire other children around the UK to visit care homes and read with elderly residents because he said: “It really makes them happy.”

Now it looks like his wish is on the way to coming true, as classmates from his school have been following in his footsteps.

Ysgol Penrhyn, in New Broughton, near Wrexham, has forged a strong bond with Highfield care home as a result of Harri telling teachers and fellow pupils about how much the residents enjoy his visits.

The school and Harri’s mum have been in touch with each other and arranged a programme of regular visits by Harri’s class and other pupils from Ysgol Penrhyn.

Laura Shone said: “When we realised how successful Harri’s reading sessions were it occurred to us that it would be a good idea to invite other pupils into the home to join in various activities with residents, including reading, but also arts and crafts and music sessions.”

In return the school also invited residents to see a music and drama show at Ysgol Penrhyn which they all hugely enjoyed.

Harri’s teacher, Beth Edwards, said: “We have already made one visit to Highfield with a group of older pupils and it was really well received by the residents, so we decided to continue the friendship by organising more regular visits.”

Speaking as Harri excitedly introduced fellow pupils to his Highfield friends, Beth said: “This is the first time that the younger pupils in Year 1 have been here as a group. They are all aged five and six so this has been quite a new adventure for them but Harri has been great introducing everyone to each other.

“It has been so good to see the way the two different generations naturally relate to each other.

“We have done so much today over the course of an hour, including playing games, making music with simple instruments, and wonderful arts and crafts.”

Schoolfriends Olivia, Oscar and Oliwia (correct) said they learned how to make colourful paper fish in bright colours of orange and blue, and also created watercolour pictures alongside residents.

Oliwia said: “We’ve learned a lot and it’s been fun to make friends.”

Pendine Enrichment Activities Practitioner, Sharon Williams, said: “It has been very busy but such a productive morning, the benefits of the school’s visit are clearly two-fold. Our residents have absolutely loved having such lively youngsters join their arts and crafts sessions, and the children have made new friends and gained a greater appreciation of life in a care home.”

Leading the arts and crafts project was Pendine creative arts consultant, Jason Bennion, a top illustrator who has recently joined the Pendine Park enrichment activities team.

He said: “Having the children here has been amazing. They have so much enthusiasm and creative energy. Our residents have really enjoyed their company and their help, you can see it in their faces. We’ve seen some big smiles here today. There’s a natural affinity between the children and residents despite the big age difference.”

Among the residents taking part in the arts session was Diana Strong, a retired headmistress of Mount Pleasant School in Shropshire.

She said: “Having the children here today has taken me back to my life teaching in school many years ago. It has brought back so many happy memories.”

Jason Bennion said: “Diana’s daughter, Julia, was also a tutor and was actually my own art teacher years ago.

“In another coincidence, I discovered that one of the Ysgol Penrhyn teaching assistants, Jason Griffiths, helping supervise the visit, was in the same class as me when I was at  school so it’s been a day when old and new friends have all met up!”

Highfield resident John Mitchell, who attends many of Jason’s art sessions, said the children’s visit was welcome and he hoped they would return soon.

He said: “They are so full of fun and have some great ideas, it has been a lovely morning. They are such exuberant children. I can’t wait for them to come back again.”

Other residents, Lillian Moulton, Betty Newcombe and Coral Pickard, also praised the children for their hard work and interesting artistic ideas.

Coral delighted in having her photograph taken with the group, saying: “Their bright and cheery smiles are delightful. They have a natural gift for art and they’ve brought some extra sunshine into our day.”

Ysgol Penrhyn also made a second visit in the afternoon with older children who spent time working on art projects with a different group of residents.

Highfield care home manager Tracey Smith said both Pendine and the school are hoping it is the start of a long term relationship which will give rise to more joint activities taking place between the two organisations.

She said: “Since Harri started coming in with his books to read after school it has been clear to us how much pleasure his visits bring to our residents and also staff. He is such a cheerful personality and now that his school has got involved too we are sure there will be lots more happy adventure stories to come.”

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