Stanley, Wonder Dog

Stanley, School Dog Extraordinaire
My friend Patsy works at a local primary school and is mother to a miniature black schnauzer called Stanley. He is still a young puppy but very well behaved and friendly. Patsy is a very persuasive person… and submitted a request to the school board to allow Stanley to attend school with her as the school mascot.

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After careful consideration, Stanley was accepted. He now goes to school most days and needless to say, is a popular character with the children. Well done to the school for seeing Stanley’s potential.
There is a great deal of research that indicates dogs and cats really assist children with reading and so it is hoped that Stanley will become a reading dog and a reward for good behaviour in the classroom.

But Why Dogs?
Learning to read is often less about intellectual limitation than about overcoming fears. Animals are ideal reading companions because they:
Help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure
• Listen attentively
• Do not judge, laugh, or criticize
• Allow children to proceed at their own pace
• Are less intimidating than peers

When a R.E.A.D. dog is listening, the environment is transformed, a child’s dread is replaced by eager anticipation, and learning occurs. The handler is a skilled facilitator, too – shifting performance pressure off the child and providing support, while the child gets the supervised reading practice necessary to build vocabulary, increase understanding of the material, and gain fluency as a reader.

The Results Are Significant
Participating kids make enormous strides in reading communication skills while, along the way, building self-esteem, confidence, and social skills. And there are bonus benefits – performance in other subjects tends to improve, as does attendance, and even personal hygiene.

Dogs are tops at helping kids read

At the Adore Animals Foundation, we do a lot of research into the benefits of animals on humans, especially on children – so much research in fact, we wrote a book about it – but here’s a new one for the books, literally.
Dogs are helping kids to read.
But dogs can’t read, I hear you say! True, they can’t (well not that we know of – yet), but studies have proven that dogs are instrumental in helping kids relax so they can concentrate on reading. And there’s even a library program, aptly named Books & Barks that’s been proving this since 2006.

According to the Northern Virginia Daily in the United States, the Books & Barks program at Samuels Public Library is proving so successful and so popular, they’ve now got a dog-assist waiting list.

So how does it work? According to Samuel’s Youth Services Supervisor Michal Ashby, the dogs help kids overcome their nervousness about reading, allowing them to feel at ease so they can open their mind to reading.
It sounds simple and it is. Dogs have a natural ability to make most people at ease, and with kids, patting or stroking the dog often helps them to relax right away.
Says Michal, ‘Scientific research has proven in studies about reading that one of the main issues of children – when they’re struggling with learning to read – is [that] they get tremendous anxiety, and by having a comforting animal next to them, as their anxiety declines, their reading ability progresses.’

The other good news is that the dogs love it too. Dog owner Pam Ostermeier has been involved in the program since its inception and says, ‘They [the dogs] love to be with the kids… They love the kids. They love coming. They get so excited when they see us putting on our uniforms.’
And of course there’s the added bonus that we’re only too aware of at the Adore Animals Foundation.
I often hear from parents that not only is it [the program] changing their child’s life because it’s improving their reading skills, but it may be that special relationship that they’ve developed with the dog helped them deal with a difficult part of their life,’ says Michal. ‘In other words, I think it does so much more than just helping reading. There’s animal therapy in there and a little bit of everything.’

To read the full article by Ben Orcutt at click on this link

The Berks Animal Rescue League in Berks County, PA, is offers a program that I wish all shelters would consider…they allow children to come to the shelter to read to their homeless cats to help soothe the shelter cats. Through their program called ‘Book Buddies’, children in grades 1-8 who are able to read at any level can sign up at the front desk of the shelter to read to the cats in their adoption room.
The program helps children improve their reading skills while also helping the shelter animals. Cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.


4 Ways Dogs Help Kids to Read
By Webvet | Animal Nation
Boy reading with dog
Can reading to a dog raise children’s reading levels? According to studies on the subject a young student’s reading scores can advance significantly – two to four grade levels – by reading to a dog for just 20 minutes a week throughout the school year (40 weeks).

Children who read to dogs have less absenteeism, visit the library more often, and improve their grades on report cards. Also, children with low self-esteem are often more willing to interact with an animal than with another person. Pets can also teach children empathy and compassion.

Getting kids excited about reading

“We didn’t invent the concept of a child reading to a pet, but we were the first to use the structure,” said Kathy Klotz, executive director of the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program (R.E.A.D.). She refers to depictions of people reading to dogs in Victorian times, and she has heard several adults admit that they used to read to their dog in the closet as a child. “There is no question that children are terribly eager to read to a dog.”

Parents don’t necessarily have to wait until a program like R.E.A.D. comes to their child’s school. They can try this at home with their children, Klotz said, as long as the dog or cat is trained and able to stay calm for at least 20 minutes while the child reads to it.

Dog days of school

Several schools have implemented visitation programs that bring trained therapy dogs as a way to encourage children’s reading, but it is still a rare practice. At the last count less than 3,000 children have participated in the R.E.A.D program since its inception in 1999.

Mary Renck Jalongo studied this practice and wrote about it in a recent issue of the journal “Childhood Education.”

“When children were asked to read aloud under three conditions (to a peer, to an adult, and to a therapy dog), the presence of a therapy dog reduced children’s blood pressure and heart rate to normal levels and diminished other observable signs of anxiety,” Renck Jalongo said.

“Working with animals is remarkably effective with students who have attentional difficulties, disruptive behaviors or a general lack of interest in reading.”

reading by m00nbugg

A special connection

The special connection between troubled children and animals was not lost on Samuel B. Ross, Jr., founder of Green Chimneys in Brewster, N.Y., a residential treatment program for children with emotional, behavioral and learning challenges. The 75-acre farm has a menagerie of 300 animals for 192 children, ages 6 to 18, to interact with. These are all children who have not been accepted back to a public school.

“The children heal the animals, and the animals heal the children,” Ross said. “They learn they’re capable of doing something productive, having been told they’re a failure earlier. Here, they find out this is not entirely true.”

Game plan

R.E.A.D recommends that 20 minutes be set aside each week for struggling readers to practice reading aloud to a dog. Using the standard 180 school days, or about 40 weeks, this adds approximately 14 hours of supervised practice in reading aloud. Enjoyment is essential because low-ability readers learn words incidentally when they are reading for fun.

Success in attitude and academics among reluctant readers can be found by reading to those who offer unconditional respect and attention. Typically, they have four legs.

The Guardian:
When children read to him, Danny does not criticise or correct their pronunciation. He just nods and pricks up an ear, although sometimes he closes his eyes and appears not to be listening.

Kids calm shelter cats and dogs by reading to them

Have a good week everyone. FG


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