Tri-Village News

Local docents carry on Thurber's legacy

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It may have been Ohio writer James Thurber's reporting career. Maybe it was his acclaimed wit. Or maybe it was simply that he loved dogs.

But two Grandview middle schoolers found their favorite author inspirational, and now they have the opportunity to educate others about the writer's life and works.

Larson Middle School sixth-grader Georgia Ryan, daughter of Becky and Scott Ryan, and fifth-grader Sydney Palermo, daughter of Heidi Wagner and Michael Palermo, were selected to be Young Docents at the James Thurber House, 77 Jefferson Ave. in downtown Columbus.

The Young Docent program allows fifth- or sixth-graders to act as docents, or volunteer guides, at the Thurber House museum. More than 40 central Ohio children expressed interest and 11 were selected.

Sydney, 11, said she was extremely excited when she got the news that she was selected.

"I'm really interested in all sorts of things," she said. "I love to write and I love to teach."

Interested children were interviewed and evaluated based on their comfort with public speaking and their interest in literature and Thurber's life. Once selected, they train for four Saturdays to be able to teach visitors about Thurber and the house, said Meg Brown, manager of children's programming.

"We're very proud of the Young Docent program," Brown said. "It's a really great program that nurtures young students to become confident, work on their speaking skills, and (they) can learn about James Thurber and continuing his legacy."

The Thurber House is the former home of the acclaimed 20th-century writer and cartoonist. In 1984, 23 years after his death, the house was restored as a museum to celebrate his life and career.

Young Docents primarily give tours but also help decorate the house for the holidays and present some of Thurber's works at the Columbus Arts Festival.

In her free time, Sydney likes to write her own stories for her younger siblings. Her passion for reading and writing and her drive to be the youngest writer ever inspired her to become a docent.

She said she is enthusiastic about giving tours of the author's house.

"Not a lot of kids can say, hey, I'm giving a tour at this cool house with a lot of history," she said.

When she grows up, Georgia, 12, said she wants to be a reporter and writer like Thurber. But for now, she, too, looks forward to giving tours and decorating the house for Christmas.

As the owner of four dogs, she smiles at the cartoon sketches of canines that decorate the gift shop on the main floor. Thurber owned nearly 50 dogs in his lifetime.

"I like the fact he liked dogs and wrote about them," Georgia said.

Her mom, Becky Ryan, said she was excited her daughter was selected and happy for her to meet other children outside of Grandview.

"She loves to write and I think (being a docent) will give her some self-confidence," Ryan said. "The teachers were really wonderful and did a nice job with the program."

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