Friday, June 19, 2009

Local Journalist Creates a Library Program: Part II

If you like dogs and new ways to encourage children to read, check out RUFF Writers. Each month, beginning in September with John Grogan’s Bad Dog, Marley! the site will feature books for inter-generational audiences.

For librarians the site will provide supplemental materials, such as puzzles, crafts, and activity pages for easy-to-create programs. At home, RUFF Writers can enhance a family's library experience by providing ideas on how families can share memories. A companion journal, RUFF Times can be ordered through the website to provide a structure for a keepsake collection of family stories.

The website was inspired by our family’s certified therapy dog, Sadie. Each month, Sadie, a Bouvier des Flandres, and my daughter and I go to a nearby

You may remember reading my Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story about our experience with Lois Lowry’s The Giver or follow my gardening column: Heart Tales for Gardeners. I am a former teacher and have authored numerous magazine articles. I also serve on the advisory board for the National Elementary Schools Press Association.

But the real inspiration for RUFF Writers came from my father. Pa, as everyone called him, came to live with us during the final stages of cancer in 2006. During that time we read many children’s books with our youngest daughter, Beth, who was then 8 years-old. We discovered special books that three generations could enjoy together, and we realized those books were great catalysts in stirring Pa’s memories.

One day I discovered a picture that Dad took of his childhood pet. “What was your dog’s name?” I asked. Dad couldn’t remember. It hit me that I can rattle off the names of every pet—including the gerbils—that our family has ever had. But someday, I may also forget. I was sure Pa had told me about his dog as we played in the back yard of our Ohio farm with our family dog, Ginger.

In the quiet moments that have come since my father’s death, I can almost remember Pa telling me about his dog, Brownie. But I never wrote that memory down, so I am not sure it's real.

We hope through RUFF Times and the RUFF Writers programs, that families will record their memories and children will have a collection of stories to carry in their hearts for a lifetime. After all, 'Ruff' times are when we most appreciate the people- and animals- in our lives.

--Jane Miller