examiner.com: Kids PAL with Dogs to Boost Reading Skills

July 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm Leave a comment

A girl holding booksDuring his fifteen-minute “Paws to Read” session, first-time participant Niles read aloud to PAL Certified Therapy Dog, Tavish, and caregiver Tracy Baetz. People Animals Love (PAL) Volunteer and Paws to Read Group Leader, Cynthia Power says, “It’s very important human volunteers be as quiet as possible and let the magic happen between the child and the dog.”

“Paws to Read is an amazing program.” Cynthia explains, “Children reading aloud in a non-judgmental atmosphere builds their confidence and reading skills. Always having someone correct mispronunciations, lack of inflection, or skipped words, does not really inspire confidence. Parents and teachers often find it difficult to provide non-judgmental reading time for children. Dogs do it perfectly!”

Arlington Central Library Youth Services Coordinator, Julia Karell, the non-profit group People Animals Love, and PAL volunteers combined efforts to offer the free Paws to Read program to elementary school age children.  Julia encourages Paws to Read participants to select a book on their independent reading level (basic, intermediate or advanced). While the children read aloud to the dogs one on one, Julia recommends age appropriate books to parents and encourages reading at home.

Rachel, age 9, has attended every Paws to Read session since the pilot program began in March 2011; Rachel reads aloud, uninhibited by her developmental learning disability, Dyslexia. Rachel’s mom, Jennifer, says, Rachel’s reading has improved and is hopeful Paws to Read will continue. Julia Karell plans to maintain Paws to Read at Arlington Central Library year-round and expand the program to Columbia Pike and Shirlington libraries.

Advertisement Laurel Edwards, PAL Program and Communications Officer, says, “The key is finding passionate people who are interested and willing to take on the responsibility of coordinating the programs. Our Group Leader and librarians work hard to ensure quality visits. That’s why our Paws to Read program is so successful.”

“PAL’s vision,” Laurel continues, “is to increase child literacy throughout the D.C. area,” replicating and expanding the program to target struggling readers. PAL, having established PAL Club and PAL Camp, animal-based curriculum to improve math, reading, and social behavior at Stanton Elementary, would like pet visits integrated into the child’s day as part of reading enrichment. “I think the Paws to Read program has incredible potential to be incorporated into schools and their libraries.”

Cynthia, also a Kindergarten teacher at Ashlawn Elementary, summarizes, “It’s an important part of reading to read aloud without any judgment. Once you build a child’s confidence in their reading skills, you get a child that starts to love reading. There is lots of time to teach the skills, but we need to build in time at home and school to just read. And, children that read are not going to be ‘left behind’.”

Article by Jeannette Smith, Arlington Animal Advocacy Examiner

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