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History of Writing Buddies

In 1992, Mimi Rasmussen Ahern, a reading specialist in the Santa Clara Unified School Distrist (CA), wrote a Master’s thesis entitled Creativity Across the Ages. In her studies, she learned that in order to encourage creativity in others, we need to encourage it in ourselves.

Because Mimi worked with both children and seniors, she developed an intergenerational pilot program in three elementary schools through her Santa Clara Adult Education Senior Program. Called The Generation Connection, the program focused on classroom activities that encouraged mutual creativity through playfulness for both ages together.

One of the projects was a Sharing Journal, containing side-by-side stories written by the seniors and their first- and second-grade students. Eventually the program spread to ten schools and received a county Award of Excellence.

In 1996, a neighboring adult education school in Mountain View/Los Altos, CA, began a similar program based on Mimi Ahern’s work. Called Literacy in the Classroom, it was led by Linda McCrary Richards after initial collaboration with Mimi. Volunteers worked one-on-one with children in seven-week sessions, producing a Sharing Journal at the end. This was particularly helpful to children who did not speak English at home. Both Robbie and Tony Fanning volunteered in these programs.

In 2009, after drastic budget cuts, the literacy program was eliminated. Long-time volunteers were upset and asked the Fannings to continue the program. The writing program was renamed Writing Buddies and new materials were developed, but the basic structure and core idea remained:

               One grownup, one kid, writing