BY JANICE LLANES FABRY
Terry Taddeo-Caridi and Georgia Arbuiso-Gilfeather are the superheroes who came to the rescue as parents pleaded for help with their school-age kids during the pandemic. Rye Reads has been a lifesaver for hundreds of children who needed to supplement their school’s hybrid models. A force to be reckoned with, Terry and Georgia are behind the 2020 Learning Pods and opened Rye Reads Learning Center, a spacious and modern facility at 180 Theodore Fremd Avenue, in April.
As Terry noted, “We believe that if we could tap into a child’s natural curiosity and give them the opportunity to express themselves in a safe, structured, and nurturing environment, they will develop a love of reading and an appreciation for learning.”
Terry, whose husband is a third-generation Rye native, moved to Rye eight years ago and began Rye Book Club for Kids as a hobby when she began building a children’s book library for her son, Anthony. When he was 5, she asked local friends if they would like to participate in a kids’ book club. Parents loved the idea. Before long, families began requesting additional services, from reading and writing intervention to language, enrichment, and help with the Singapore Math approach. Rye Reads was born.
Not always an educator, Terry likes to say she “became a teacher on September 12, 2001.” She was in the vicinity when the first World Trade Center Tower came down and hid in a deli alcove until the dust and debris settled. “I prayed to God for mercy and promised him that if I didn’t die, I would change my life and do important work,” she recalled.
She left the corporate world, where she was Head of Communications for TWA, behind and never looked back.
It was Georgia who guided her on her road to education. Having a master’s degree in Special Education, Georgia was a licensed teacher of speech and hearing handicapped in New York City. Under her tutelage, Terry applied for a New York City Teaching Fellowship and earned a coveted spot. Upon earning her master’s degree in Special Education, she was assigned to a two-year special education position in New York City and ended up staying for 20 years. She is currently earning her doctorate.
Friends for 52 years, Terry and Georgia grew up in Queens. They fondly recall their first meeting as children. On that fateful day, Georgia found herself in the middle of a snowball fight when a feisty little girl, Terry, whisked her away to play with her Barbie dolls. The rest is history.
The two share an easy repartee and a passion for childhood development. When Covid-19 hit, Terry convinced her longtime friend to come on board and a successful partnership was forged. The two hired 15 teachers and created Rye Reads’ 2020 Learning Pods. Their clientele grew from five to 150 within a few weeks of the schools announcing the hybrid model.
“Our Pods complimented the students’ on-line learning. We kept them on schedule and helped them complete all assignments when they were not live with teachers,” explained Terry. “We also tutored those who were struggling academically. We gave students a sense of community until they returned to in-person learning.”
They are immensely grateful for the “invaluable guidance” from Rye Recreation Superintendent Sally Rogol and Assistant Superintendent Erin Mantz, along with Rye Free Reading Room Director Chris Shoemaker.
The fact that kids returned to school in March did not diminish the Learning Center’s impact. Their programs are designed to supplement and enhance the school curriculum and provide an enrichment block of time in a small group setting. There are 6-8 kids in a class with 2-3 teachers.
Moreover, Terry and Georgia have no shortage of ideas to create opportunities for kids. When Netflix’s mini-series “The Queen’s Gambit” caught fire, for instance, they called the National School Chess Foundation and started a Chess Club. They also started the Grub Club, a lunch program that offers yoga, dance, karate, and more. Recognizing a need for therapeutic intervention, they started Social U!
Georgia noted, “I wanted a program geared towards those children who aren’t playing baseball on the weekend, enrolled in dance classes, or having playdates.”
Indeed, Social U! fosters conversational and problem-solving skills, sharing and friendship, anger management, and impulse control.
The Center offers programs for all ages, from age 3 to Regents Prep for high school students. There are afterschool learning pods, special education programs, and private tutoring. Early childhood programs are designed to develop skills in language arts, reading readiness, math, science, creative arts, physical activity, construction, music, and socialization.
A small group summer camp provides 3- to 6-year-olds with a variety of weekly options that focus on different themes June, July, and August. Fairy Tale Week culminates in a live theater production; for Healthy Cooks Week they will bring in a chef; a magician is coming to Unicorns and Dragons Week; a petting zoo will be on the premises for Pets and Animals Week.
Also coming up are a Summer Academy that helps bridge this school year’s learning gap with academic review for grades 1-5, as well as a Summer Reading program that helps grades K-5 with the Rye City School District’s summer reading list. Kindergarten Reading Readiness and Executive Functioning Skills for Middle School are also on the schedule.
At this point in their lives, all Terry and Georgia want to do is what brings them joy, “and a big part of that is keeping learning fresh, fun, and engaging for the kids.”
For information, registration, and fees, visit ryereads.com or call 424–3524.