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.

Kids reading to dogs benefits the DOGS, too!

A few weeks ago, I posted an article, Canine reading tutorsabout the growing popularity of using therapy dogs to boost children’s literacy.

Kids who read aloud to dogs never get corrected when they say a word wrong or spend time puzzling over it, and they never get hurried up if they read slowly. Instead, the dog lies next to them, warm and reassuring, and always seems to like being read to. It’s a great confidence-builder.

But could it also benefit the dogs? Perhaps surprisingly–yes! Last March, NBC News featured a story about a new idea in a St. Louis animal shelter. Kids read to dogs in the shelter, to help calm and socialize the dogs. I’m sure the extra practice didn’t hurt the kids any, either.

Here’s a video that tells a bit more about the program:

The human-canine bond is an old and mutually-beneficial one, as I’ve written before. I don’t know about you, but I loved seeing another way in which that connection is still going strong, after all these millennia. I’d also like to thank The Dodo, for its feature on this program. I happened upon this story there, first.

IMAGES: many thanks to the Huffington Post for the photo of the little girl reading to the dog, and to NBC News for the photo of the girl and the shelter dog, and YouTube, for the video about the program.

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!

Does this look like an oasis to you?

Or maybe it’s your idea of a “treasure island”?

last-minute-summer-plansIf you’re like most of my friends, reading is one of life’s best joys–or, at least, I hope that for you! I can’t imagine a creative summer for anyone of any age without chances to voyage to the far shores of the imagination, via books.

1000-books-long-iconSummer reading is one of the best ways a child can stay fluent and avoid the dreaded summer slump. My friend Veda Jairrels has made a strong case for reading as a massive help against the achievement gap in this country. She’s founded a group on Facebook, the 2000 Book Movement, and groups such as 1000 Books Before Kindergarten are helping turn the idea into a movement.

But reading is wonderful for people of all ages. It opens us to new ideas and in some cases whole new worlds–or gives us better tools for dealing with the world where we live. Whether you prefer traditional “dead trees” books, e-books on a reader or pad, or audio versions–or whether you like to mix all three types–reading is foundational to a well-rounded intellectual life. 

Oh, and while you’re reveling in the riches of the written word . . . don’t forget to support your community’s library and shop at independent, locally-owned bookstores! Those are community resources we really don’t want to lose. 

IMAGE: Many thanks to DMCI Homes for the “quilt and books” image, and to the Middletown Public Library for the “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” image.