This article explains how ‘Speak Scruffy!  Have a go!’ became a storybook for young children and a different approach in providing confidence in language learning, celebrating difference and explaining the world.

Initially I wanted to solve a problem. I love travelling and when abroad on holiday the easy option is to speak your native language (in my case English) and hope you are understood.  I have always tried to speak the language of the country I am visiting, even if only to learn essential words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  This effort is always well received and provides a great experience and insight into the culture you are visiting.  However, it struck me that this is not easy– How do I learn essential language? How do I pronounce the language correctly?  I saw this as a problem for all of us, including parents and their children.  Many children travel from an early age and I thought about how language learning could be an enjoyable, shared experience for children and their families.  I knew the many advantages of learning a language.  I wanted to devise pronunciation aids that families could use with their children, learn together and put their new skill into practice with confidence.

Working as a Pre-school teacher I know the potential for language learning from an early age.  However, I could also see that children needed help understanding the confusing concepts of travel, languages and the world.  I wanted to talk about the world and its countries and how difference is such a great thing and not to be afraid of it.  I was unable to find any stories on the market that helped explain these issues and solve the introductory language learning dilemma, which itself is a means of fostering a respect for other cultures.  I did not want the available language learning non-fiction book, but instead an enjoyable children’s story that addressed these topics and simultaneously introduced language learning.

The story book idea was born that my dog Scruffy (based on my pet dog – Scruffy!) could travel the world, understand the world better, grow in confidence, learn a language, celebrate difference and experience how a friend’s kindness can help you and make you happy.  I love the fact that Scruffy’s friend is a cat, not the likeliest of friends for a dog!  But difference is good.  Arguably the only thing we all have in common?  Why not take that first step in enabling young children to communicate more widely, discover the world and gain a greater cultural understanding?

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