Friday, July 13, 2012
Read aloud to your dog? Emerging readers do!
The first dog I ever owned was after I was 50, so I was a complete dog novice, but when I saw Ollie in the cage at Petsmart he was looking right at me and clearly was more connected to people than other animals.
I hadn't gone in to get a dog. I needed cat food. But I came home with a dog, all the same. And I never looked back.
This people pleasing trait led me to go in to my local hospital when they put out a plea to members who had dogs to become therapy dogs. Turns out there are multiple therapy dog programs in the world. Because the hospital used Therapy Dogs International, we did,too.
Now Ollie loves people in general, but has always had an affinity for children specifically. He stands about 15 inches high and at 20 pounds is big enough to be safe with uncoordinated toddlers, small enough to cuddle. When I met another member who was getting volunteers to go to local libraries I was intrigued. My first graduate work was in elementary education, and in my work with people with disabilities I have seen lots of ideas around motivating people to read. The basic fact is, to learn to read you have to READ.
In this program Ollie sits or lays next to a child while they read a book out loud to him. I keep my mouth shut and encourage parents to not interrupt what is happening between the child and the dog. No corrections! The child often self-corrects because s/he wants Ollie to understand the book.
In this loving, no judgment opportunity to read books out loud, the children improve their fluency, learn to decipher the book from picture and word clues, and go way beyond sounding out words alone. And they LOVE to read because they love my dog.
My dog was on the front page of the paper a few weeks ago. Well, his photo was in the banner teaser for the front page of spotlight section, anyway. Here is are links to that great photo and another featuring my boy, both by Bee photographer Mark Crosse.
The wonderful article that accompanied the photos is by Rick Bentley, and is found at http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/06/22/v-textonly/2884415/therapy-dogs-help-foster-kids.html
As a result of my love for my dog and this kind of volunteer work, I have written therapy dogs into my third book, Return of Joy, scheduled for release in October from Desert Breeze Publishing under my writing name, Lynette Endicott.