I figured out what I want to do when I am retired – I want to get a dog and participate in the Read Education Assistance Program or R.E.A.D. What is R.E.A.D. well a few months ago I noticed a sign-up at our library – R.E.A.D to Rusty (a Golden Retriever) or Elliot (an Australian Labradoodle) with a lovely pictures of the dogs. Apparently any child who wants to can come and read to either Elliot or Rusty on the first Saturday of every month at the Ruth Tyler Library. I signed my daughter up and she has since read to both dogs and loved it! As in L-O-V-E-D I-T. She had reached the point in her reading where she needed to get through what one of my professors called the Valley of Decoding Despair and it was hard to keep her going. Elliot & Rusty were just the right trick and she has loved preparing to read to them and her reading has really taken off.
The last time I was there I talked to Mary (Rusty) and Joe (Elliot) the owners of these two book loving canines. Elliot and Rusty are therapy dogs and more specifically the are part of the Read Education Assistance Program. Both dogs are with Intermountain Therapy Animals. Most of us are familiar with therapy dogs as assistance to those who are blind or disabled in some way and others will visit hospitals to cheer up patients, etc. However, these dogs love to listen to children read!
Joe and Elliot listen to children read once a week at the local Boys and Girls club and the books are loaned out by our local librarian – Cami. She is wonderful and it was her who made arrangements to have Elliot and Rusty come to our library. Elliot is also one busy Labradoodle as he has about four hospice patients and visits the local children’s hospital. Joe and Elliot spend about 40 hours a month volunteering for various organizations. Rusty is smaller than Elliot and is very sweet mild manner dog.
R.E.A.D., which started in 1999 and since been chosen as a national outreach partner with PBS kids show Martha Speaks. R.E.A.D. dogs and their handlers volunteer mostly in schools and libraries working with reluctant readers. Just from my experience I think they are really onto something and here is a quote from R.E.A.D’s brochure from, Rae Louie a school principal,
Little did we realize what an impact you would make. Academically, those students that participated in R.E.A.D. experienced phenomenal growth. And as icing on the cake, students began to enjoy reading to themselves, too, began to exhibit a curiosity for different books, and most importantly gained self-confidence not only in their reading ability, but their ability to interact with others in positive ways. I look forward to expanding the program to touch more children.
Therapy animals help people in numerous ways including reducing blood pressure, anxiety and depression and anger. Reading out loud can be really intimidating to children and just from reading some of the stories on the Intermountain Therapy Animals I am convinced that reading to dogs (or other animals) would be good for many reluctant and skilled readers. Here is what one participant said in the pilot program at the Salt Lake City Main Library
When I read, I stutter a little bit, but when I read to the dog it didn’t make fun of me.
Doesn’t that just make you want to get a therapy animal and go R.E.A.D. with kids? It certainly makes me want to do it. If you are interested in more information the program with click on R.E.A.D.
What are some ways you can think of to encourage children to read who might be nervous or scared to read in front of others?