Elementary School Students Read to Dogs (Enhancing Reading Skills)
In Montesano, Washington, dogs are helping third-grades bone up on their reading skills every Thursday, acting as reading companions for students at Beacon Elementary School.
Each week, the twenty students pick out a puppy provided by a handful of dedicated volunteers for their 15 minute reading session, spending that time reading to their canine companion in order to make reading a shared experience.
The reading to dogs program was started by a retired Beacon teacher named Marlene Vahl, who began bringing dogs to the library two years ago to inspire kids to read more: “Reading is like playing a sport. – the more you practice, the better you get. But practice is easier to do if it’s fun.” This passion and sense of fun is clear from the students’ reactions: young Daylon enjoys reading to Maggie, who takes to the adventure stories that he reads to her; Haley reads to 12-year-old toy poodle Mitsy, who rests with her eyes closed while snuggling up to her.
According to these young lovers of literature, reading to dogs is a great new way to enjoy books. Instead of having to read alone, or read to someone else who might not be paying attention, the dogs just sit there and provide a welcome ear to the pleasant reading voices of the children. Says Haley of her reading experience, “Dogs don’t stop you in the middle of the story. By myself, it’s lonely. With a dog, they just keep me comfortable.”
The success of the program has warmed Vahl’s heart, as well as those of the students and dogs who get to participate in the program. With this much-needed practice, the kids get better at reading, and the dogs get to spend some quality time with the adorable humans they love most.