Tuesday, July 17, 2012

R.E.A.D to a dog



Have you ever heard of a "reading dog?"

We've recently met Grady who's trained to do exactly that and the kids are still talking about him.
I was a little skeptical about signing the kids up to read to a dog at our the local library this past week but, thought it was something we had to try. It seemed popular. There was a sign-up and everything. We were told to secure a place quickly because this filled up in a snap. We're always curious and that was enough: 9:30 on a Tuesday.

We arrived to meet Grady, the lab, and his trainer with our books in hand. He was the most tranquil dog and calmly greeted the kids. After that, he was a pure professional: laying down, giving the kids his full attention, and was ready to listen. During the reading, Grady occasionally pressed a paw up and down to signify an assertion or reaction; and, after the reading, Grady even stamped a bookmark for each of them with his paw print! Impressive. Mission accomplished, too: 20 minutes of reading aloud per child with time to discuss both the book and Grady's life afterwards. 

Grady is a part of a program that promotes literacy. Before being accepted to the program, he had to be assessed to see if he had just the right "listening" skills and personality and was good with kids; then, he and his trainer entered a program specifically for reading with young readers.  Grady's in demand and travels all over the county spreading literary and becoming a reading pal to many kids. As skeptical as I was when I first saw the poster, I left feeling that this was such an interesting and worth while idea. It is often what children need: to be heard and Grady earned an A+ with us!

The visit also opened up the idea of research and career ideas for the kids to think about. Francesca, our daughter, left convinced that she was going to train our people shy bunny for the job back in Sweden. After an in-depth discussion with Grady's trainer, we found books on the subject and have learned that animals are used as "therapy animals." In fact, we learned that there are other, large and small, dogs in this area; including a library with three miniature reading horses! Imagine: miniature horses. I was so sorry that our schedule couldn't accommodate this.  

Francesca was so inspired by this experience that we left the library with book on "how to train therapy animals." Watch out, Coco. Francesca has big ideas for you when we return to Sweden. (Coco is our beautiful but, shy and reluctant, dwarf bunny.) 

Many people ask about our family's trilingualism (Sweden, French and English.) Reading is essential. Having access to fantastic English collections of books in the Summer; vibrant and helpful local library culture are giant, behind-the-scene, tools for me in assisting the children's English education. Access to these limitless books and the reading culture within the libraries, all Summer, lives on as we return to Sweden. I can't say enough about it and again, if you live in the US: lucky you! 

What about you? Are active libraries a part of your local community? Are in you in the US or in another part of the world? I'd love to here from you, as always! Happy Readings and willowday wishes!

Something you might like:
Make Bulldog Origami Bookmarks
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Summer Reading for Tweens
Coco, our bunny and our Pet Gallery


(A note to any Swedish librarians who might be reading: Since statistically Sweden is a country of readers, we would support you and would spread the word, if you were to bring reading programs to Sweden and more -- the art, science and computer rooms at libraries are incredible, as well.  You would love them. I promise you: incentives work! Our kids can't fill in their reading charts fast enough in order to return to the library for more books and "library dollars" which they will, in turn, spend in the library dollar store. Books are positively devoured in our Summer visits. I'm familiar with the a book store reading program that is great but, the community around the libraries in the US is like nothing I've experienced elsewhere; although reading and creative thinking is ripe in Sweden! I'd love to see what you'd do with this, Sweden!)

2 comments:

  1. Hi Willow,

    What a fun library reading incentive! Although not a library, the Academy Book Store in Stockholm started a trace of a reading incentive last Fall. See the link:

    http://akademibokhandeln.se/artiklar/ta-lasborgarmarket/

    I brought the "bookmark" booklets into both of my boys' teachers in school last Fall and the teachers embraced the idea. Each teacher adopted the booklets in different ways: for the older class (grade 4), the teacher rewarded the class to group trip to the movies after 10,000 pages of reading, then 25,000 pages then 50,000 total pages of reading form the students. The teacher for the younger students (grade 2) used stickers and presented the child in class at each book milestone: 5, 10 and 15. I was very impressed with their involvement in the Swedish classroom.

    Akademinbokhandel is continuing with these bookmarks again this fall.

    Happy reading! /A friend

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  2. Hi! Thank you for this information. I'd heard rumors of this program, but will now look into this . I'm really appreciative that you've shared this, as we're returning to Sweden and school is on the horizon --- just what we need. Great idea about sharing with teachers. We'll make this a plan and happy reading!

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Thank you!