The dog pictured to the right is my dog, Boji. He was named after one of my favorite areas in Iowa – Lake Okoboji. I rescued Boji, a scared little Schnoodle, 5 years ago. As an educator I was bound and determined to train him to be a therapy dog for our area STARS K9 Program. After much training, Boji received his American Kennel Club (AKA) Canine Good Citizen Award and passed his disposition test to be admitted into the program. We enjoy spending our summer months together, as often as possible, at our local library in their Read-to-Me Dog Program.
We all know that dogs can be our best friends. Their unconditional love fills us with joy. They are our constant companions, our walking buddies and snuggle bunnies! They greet us after a long day at work or school and often never leave our side. But did you know, they are also excellent reading buddies for children.
There is something magical between children and dogs. Dogs (and other pets) can serve as a great summer reading motivator. If you have a pet at home, then encourage your child to find a book, sit down, and read to the pet. If you are teaching in a summer school setting, check with the school administration to see if you can bring a trained dog to school at times. Some communities have therapy dog organizations that visit libraries, schools and hospitals. Research your area, you may be surprised at what you find. Local pet shelters and humane societies have also opened their doors to student readers. This option allows dogs to remain caged for an added level of safety.
Check out this FREE ClassFlow lesson on dog safety. This lesson was inspired by the fact that while Boji is working, there are times that he encounters children who do not know how to greet a dog, even in a controlled environment. The lesson uses resources from the American Kennel Club and teaches students how respect a dog’s territory and how to greet a dog. An added bonus is modeling of a vocabulary strategy made popular by author Isabel Beck in her book Bring Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction.
Together, Boji and I, have witnessed many benefits of reading with children. Here are 5 reasons to encourage your child or student to read to a dog (or other pet) this summer and throughout the year. If you don’t have a pet handy, children can gain similar benefits by simply reading to a stuffed toy.
1. Children feel comfort in reading to a dog. The child can simply read, without fear of correction.
2. Reading to a dog can increase a child’s self-esteem and confidence levels in reading, especially with struggling readers.
3. Children gain a sense of accomplishment by finishing a story book or chapter of a book. They often spend longer reading to a dog than they would by themselves.
4. Dogs can be calming to many children. While reading, simply petting the dog can reduce anxiety or stress.
5. Reading to dogs is highly motivational and fun. Children look forward to reading to dogs, whether it is the family pet or a dog that visits a school or library.
Debbie Gisonni, author of The Huffington blog post entitled 10 Things Dogs Teach Us About What Matters Most, shared a great list of things that dogs can teach us. I find all of these items to be true. I would add being a GREAT LISTENER to the list. Therapy Dogs, like Boji, or family pets can teach us how to listen. They are constantly there with an open ear and never try to force their own opinion. Encourage a child to read to a dog this summer and watch the magic!
Kathy Perret is a ClassFlow Ambassador. Boji, The Therapy Dog, is her personal pet and is part of the K-9 STARS Program in Sioux City, Iowa. He spends most Tuesday afternoons in the summer and some Saturdays during the school year listening to kids read at the Sioux City Public Library.
How do you encourage summer reading with your students? Share with us in the blog comments below.