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A Novel Approach to Improving Reading Skills

I’ve just recently learned about a precious reading program that helps elementary school children improve their oral reading skills.  It’s called Bark for Books and is just the epitome of “warm and fuzzy,” pairing sweet dogs with precious children and of all places—in a library.  Does it get any better than that! These are therapy dogs, which have been trained to coach young readers and help them gain confidence in reading aloud.  

Apparently, the dogs become so excited when they see the children, anticipating their upcoming reading, they begin to bark and wag their tails, and this incites the children. Imagine, barking dogs in a library! The photo I saw depicted a large pillow on the floor upon which lay a soft, furry corgi-collie mix and a little boy sidling up to each other.  Jasper, one of two therapy dogs, has been trained to hone in on a book, getting as close as he possibly can.  The session will last for a half hour with the reader’s volume and confidence increasing as furry friend and little boy grow closer to each other on their pillow. In addition to the Bark for Books program at the Library, they also do home visits with youngsters they've met through the library; and once a week they meet with special needs students.  Jasper is one of two therapy dogs that trainer and mentor, Melissa Brickman, uses to provide an incentive for youngsters to practice reading in a fun way.  To learn more about this special program, check out this link: http://news-herald.com/articles/2011/03/06/news/nh3728034.txt.

Of course, having a trained animal is probably more effective, but I recall my daughter reading to our lop-ear rabbit, Edith Ann, who occasionally would have the run of the house.  Our daughter would lie on her belly, propped on her elbows, reading Cat in the Hat, while Edith Ann would hop circles around her, jumping over her back, sometimes resting on her back for awhile, if it were her favorite part of the story.  Certainly, trained therapy animals in a library environment would be advisable, but unlike the experiments that say, “Don’t try this at home,” I think this is a method that could be tried at home with a loving, furry family member, providing of course, that the member is rather patient.

March 7, 2011
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