Dogs teaching kids how to read

The Artdog Images of Interest

My Images of Interest this month spotlight creative and unconventional approaches to teaching that have been gaining traction in schools, libraries, and other places devoted to teaching–including our own homes, if we share them with children.

Literacy dogs:

By now, the science is pretty well settled: reading to a calm, accepting dog (or other animal) really does help children learn to read better. Here’s a video that covers most of the important things about kids reading to dogs.

My first video is about therapy dogs of R.E.A.D., Reading Education Assistance Dogs, from Intermountian Therapy Animals, an organization started in Salt Lake City, UT in 1999. It’s a group I’ve blogged about before.

But now for a little something different: how about a dog who inspires children to read–by reading, himself?

Meet Fernie, whose owner Nik Gardner (headmaster of the school where Fernie works) chose him for his temperament, and taught him not only to be a literacy-support therapy dog, but to respond without verbal cues to commands that are printed on flash cards. He’d learned to read four different commands (“Sit,” “Down,” “Roll Over,” and “Spin”) when they were featured in The Telegraph in February 2016, but Gardner vowed then to teach him more.

Regular readers of this blog will remember I’ve featured literacy dogs before. Just sayin’–they do their work well. You’ll probably see them featured here again!

IMAGES AND VIDEOS: Many thanks to VOA for the video and photo of the R.E.A.D. program in the New York City Public Schools. Thanks also to The Telegraph, and to SWNS TV, photographer David Hedges and YouTube for the information, video, and photo of Nik Gardner with Fernie.

Canine reading tutors

This week’s Artdog Image(s) of Interest

Today’s images show an increasingly frequent literacy strategy for helping children learn to read with greater fluency and confidence: using reading therapy dogs. 

As you’ll see if you take time to watch this video, reading to dogs can help children with difficulties grow into stronger readers–but also gain confidence, and improve in all sorts of other areas you might not expect, from better math skills to improved hygiene!

Are the dogs magic? No, it’s just a natural outcome. People have taken comfort and strength–not just help, food and utility–from animals.

The first recorded use of animals for therapy that I’ve been able to track down was a program for disabled people to work with farm animals in Geel, Belgium in the 9th century (yes, during the Dark Ages), but they must’ve gotten the idea from somewhere–namely, the millennia-long history of interactions between humans and the other animal species they encountered, lived and worked with.

Side note: there’s still an active focus on community-based psychiatric care in Geel today, based on its very old tradition.

During August, I celebrated the traditional back-to-school season with a return to the “roots” of this blog (which used to be called Artdog Educator) and a focus on education, which has been well received. I thought the photos and video of dogs at work to help children read was an appropriate way to close out this theme (for the moment) and segue into my September “Creative Approaches to Work” series.

Keep checking back, for more working dogs in September.

IMAGES: Many thanks to FirstBook’s article Sit, Stay, Read about a program in the Chicago Schools, for the photo of the girl reading to the dog in her classroom, and to the Stamford Advocate, for the photo of two girls on a couch in Stamford, CT reading to a dog, and article about a local literacy program that uses dogs in schools. Thanks also to YouTube and Intermountain Therapy Animals of Salt Lake City, UT, for the video about their Reading Education Assistance Dogs.

Intergenerational magic

This week’s Artdog Image(s) of Interest: 

Elders and elementary kids, reading together: bridge-building between generations helps all parties.

The “loneliness epidemic” in our society is well-documented–we may have instant communication, but “proximity, as city dwellers know, does not necessarily mean intimacy,” Olivia Laing noted in her article, “The Future of Loneliness,” in The Guardian. And loneliness hits older people hardest of all.

But I would argue that the divide hurts the younger generation, too. Divorce and separation of families to far parts of the country can disconnect grandparent-child relationships, robbing the younger generation of chances for unconditional love and a healthy perspective on aging. People deprived of experiences with stable, loving elders may grow up without empathy or compassion for the lives and value of older people, and they also may live in needless terror of aging.

All across the country, a variety of programs have developed to match elder volunteers with preschool and elementary children, often most explicitly in support of the children’s literacy–but with a broad range of “add-on” values as side effects. I can only hope this trend prospers and grows!

IMAGES: Many thanks to Native News 2014,  The Un-Retired, and Move With Balance Youth Programs for the images in this post. 

Curl up to read in the Enchanted Forest

This week’s Artdog Image of Interest

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to make these big-people-sized . . .

Photo by Zane Williams of The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.
Photo by Zane Williams of The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.

These “reading pods” are part of a nature-inspired reading area at the Madison Children’s Museum (Madison, WI).

But the awesome coolness doesn’t stop there. Designed by The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. to repurpose an old office building, this museum is vibrant with creative enrichment.

Learning through play is the guiding theme for areas such as the Art Studio, Log Cabin, Possible-opolis, Wildernest, and many others.

Wander through the museum’s website for more fun and inspiration. Better yet–if you’re ever in Madison, WI, wander through their museum. Many of the areas are marked “All Ages.” I hope they mean that! 🙂

IMAGE: Many thanks to The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. for providing this photo and to BuzzFeed for posting an article about it. Many thanks to the Madison Children’s Museum for offering such a wonderful learning place!