Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reading to Dogs: Great for Kids

Reading to Dogs Program
A Program So Doggon’ Good for Kids!

Guest Post by Lisa Palmieri @LPalmReader
(Reading Specialist at Cantiague Elementary School)

Reading to Dogs is a program that can help make a difference in children’s attitudes toward reading, improve their reading skills and show them how wonderful companion animals can be.  The primary purpose of this program is for students to practice reading in a stress-free and judgment-free zone.  It has been a valuable and fantastic addition to our reading program here at Cantiague!

Once a week Buddy, an adorable and gentle golden retriever, “listens” to students read.  As the student enters the room he/she greets the dog, and Buddy returns the greeting with a wag, smile or sometimes a paw!  Buddy and the student then sit (or lay) on a comfortable blanket, in a private room.  The child reads a familiar text to him. Some of the students show Buddy the pictures from the text; others stop reading to tell how a character is feeling or to explain a fact.  Meanwhile, Buddy just listens attentively! He pays close attention as the student reads without corrections or judgment.  He is simply a loving dog giving the child 100% of his attention. 

The children chosen for this program are readers who vary in age and are at different readiness levels.  Some of the children may have faced challenges while developing their reading skills and thus their self-confidence may have been compromised. All threats of being judged are put aside when reading to Buddy.  Rereading a “Just Right” book helps build confidence and fluency…rereading with Buddy makes the experience pleasurable!  Associating pleasure with reading helps the developing reader feel good about reading!  As a teacher (and parent), I have witnessed the difference a positive attitude can make in a child’s performance.  Having a positive mindset can truly help a student advance his/her skills.

Our vision and hope is that this program will help students improve their literacy skills and feelings about reading.  Students who have had the opportunity to read with Buddy are incredibly enthusiastic! ALL of the students who read with him last year have asked (okay, begged) to read with him again this year! Buddy is certainly our reading ‘buddy’ here at Cantiague!

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