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Professor’s new book helps children better understand dementia

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Paul Gerber, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the School of Education and former Ruth Harris Professor of Dyslexia Studies, has authored a children’s book illustrated by his wife, Veronica Geran Gerber, which serves as a vehicle for discussion and understanding of loved ones who suffer from dementia.

Ferguson the Forgetful Frog: A Story about Dementia,” is written for children ages 5 to 8 and provides an age-appropriate format for dealing with a family member with dementia. Gerber and his wife produced the book after experiencing dementia among family members.

Paul Gerber, Ph.D.
Paul Gerber, Ph.D.

“My interest in writing this book has evolved over the past eight years,” Gerber said. “I have had two loved ones in assisted living/memory care and have been very involved in their lives as a relative overseer.” 

When visiting the facility, he would observe families and their young children, and how they interact with their loved ones with dementia. 

“I have noticed that young kids who visit their relatives are mostly at a loss of how to think about the behaviors they see and subsequently how to respond to them,” he said. “Moreover, parents do not know how to talk about this very precarious situation, in essence, creating confusion and miscommunication.”

He researched children’s books about dementia, and found that few good ones existed. So he and his wife decided to create their own to help families respond to their loved ones with dementia. 

“I wrote the narrative for the book keeping in mind developmentally how young children think and process social situations,” he said. “My wife developed the character of Ferguson the Frog and illustrated the book from beginning to end.”

Veronica Geran Gerber received a master’s degree from the School of the Arts, was a TV art director in New Orleans and at WTVR in Richmond, and went on to teach art at Atlee High School in Hanover County until retiring a few years ago. Gerber retired from VCU in June.

 

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