Meet the Staff: Tara Ruby

A love of reading is a prerequisite for working at Raising A Reader MA. Tara Ruby wakes up everyday with a goal of sharing this love of literacy with families throughout Boston.

Tara Ruby is a literacy lover who saw her role at Raising A Reader MA as the perfect opportunity to interact with and influence the two generations that influence a child’s learning: the parents and the children themselves. Her tireless drive to better her communities, her programs and herself are evident in her work everyday, juggling two hats: Program Manager and the Program and Office Associate. Not to mention her ability to make anyone engaged in any story.

Speaking at a conference in Abu Dhabi hosted by the Arab Women’s Organization, June 2008.

Tara’s journey to Raising A Reader MA began well before she even realized. In the small town of Bernville, PA, her parents read extensively to her, and then to her and her brother when he arrived. Literature has been part of the bond that Tara and her family shared from day one (and likely even before that).

Even the times when the bond broke down just a little, and Tara had to visit time-out for teasing her brother, Tara would sit and read. She says that her parents strategically placed the time-out in front of the children’s bookshelf; but she also thought she was spiting them by reading in time-out. “I loved reading, reading is fun! I thought I was really sticking it to my parents by sneaking a book in time out,” she said. But it was all part of the plan…

Tara is a self-proclaimed nerd and not afraid to admit it. Her love of books and school drove her to try to sneak reading at the dinner table, and ultimately drove her to receive a full scholarship to Northeastern University.

At school, Tara remained incredibly involved in her community and made a concerted effort to grab hold of every opportunity that she could. Her nerdom led her to become a tour guide at the Massachusetts State House, where she met her equally book-loving husband, Sam. And her desire to make her community a better place led her to work as a volunteer throughout Boston.

Team huddle for some of the players Tara volunteered with in the Liga Jochy Taveras in Santiago de los Caballeros, November 2006.

Then, as a Northeastern “middler”, she enrolled in a CIEE study abroad program in the Dominican Republic. She lived with a host family in the lively, dusty, city of Santiago, the second biggest city in the DR. There, Tara took six different classes at the university, including judo and dance (admittedly dropping judo with her friend a few weeks before her departure, so they could have more time to explore and have fun), as well as volunteering in a program called Liga Jochy Taveras that used baseball to incentivize kids to stay in school.

On the Inca Trail headed towards Machu Picchu, March 2012.

Tara talks about her experience in the DR as a major reason she is in the field that she is in today. She wanted to see and be a part of a place that was completely different than what she had known before, while also becoming a better Spanish speaker, and give back to the surrounding community. She never lost sight of what lent her the ability to pursue her education and she wanted to share this opportunity with others.

Upon her return to the US, Tara was inspired to pursue co-ops through Northeastern that focused on giving back and were tied tightly to the Spanish-speaking community. She worked with Hyde Square Task Force as a Literacy Coordinator for the afterschool program and then with Sociedad Latina helping to make a video that describes the impact that college students had on the residents of Mission Hill.

Through all of her different community impact experiences, Tara’s heart was truly in early childhood education. After graduating she moved back to Pennsylvania and took a job at Boys & Girls Club as a Program Director, running programs for general school readiness in after-school programs for first to fifth graders.

While she loved her job there, Tara yearned to spend more time with the children. In the interest of pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching, she moved to Baltimore and attended the Notre Dame of Maryland University. “My internship there led me to an insightful four years with the Baltimore City Public Schools, working as both a special and general education in a full-inclusion school,” shared Tara.

Wedding smiles, October 2017.

From there, she decided to move up to Boston to be closer to friends (including her future husband!). She knew she wanted a career where she could access both parents and children simultaneously in order to maximize the impact she could have. “As a teacher, it was wonderful to see how many parents wanted to be involved in their kids’ lives, and I felt bad that I didn’t have as much time as I would have wanted to be able to help parents with their concerns,” she remarked.

Raising A Reader MA was the perfect fit for her aspirations–and the feeling was mutual. Before Tara, the RAR-MA presence in Boston was very minimal, and after receiving its first sizable grant dedicated to Boston programming, Tara was able join the team and put the grant money to work.

Although it wasn’t easy. “From my experience in school and nonprofits, I knew that trust between our organization and the community partners was the biggest thing and I was new to them. But once they saw that – wow, the program works – I was able to establish a lot of partnerships,” Tara shared. Under Tara’s lead, RAR-MA now works with 24 community partners in Boston, and counting!

Reading with her cousin’s children while home on holiday vacation, December 2017.

August 3rd marks her third year anniversary and RAR-MA could not be happier to have her on board. Tara’s role now includes administrative and office management, as well as general program management, including curriculum development–something she loved from her teacher days.

Tara truly views the lessons and relationships that books provide as a gift, and if you ever witness one of her parent workshops or storywalks, this couldn’t more evident.

“Even more than one book, the act of reading itself has been a valuable teacher in life.  I spent countless hours reading, and my parents never restricted what I read.  As a child, I would devour three of Ann M. Martin’s Baby Sitter’s Club Little Sisters books, and by middle school was reading Anne Rice over the course of a weekend.  That hasn’t changed: on a recent trip, I don’t think I noticed the plane landing because Tony Morrison had me so thoroughly wrapped up in the story of Beloved.  It has been through meeting so many different characters, trying to understand so many perspectives, that I have continued to develop my own unique lens for looking at the world.”