Before our son became the voracious reader that he is today, he was anxious and easily frustrated with each attempt to read. You can read about his favorite books here at Our Favorite Children's Books. We had a little boy with big ideas that could understand complexities far beyond his years. He knew the sounds that the letters made, but he struggled with letter combinations, blends and sight words. Learning to read is like learning to run. A baby doesn't just jump up one day and run across the room. Well, I suppose there may be a few exceptions....but generally there's loads of single steps and loads of falling long before any walking happens. Running comes last. Our son wasn't interested in the mundane tasks of learning to walk. He wanted to run!
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One day at the library we stumbled upon two things: BOB Books and the therapy dog reading program called READing Paws. We were blessed to have a wonderful librarian who seemed to get our sons interesting reading challenge and she is the one that suggested this combination to us. Our son LOVED the idea of reading to the therapy dogs. He found the BOB Books silly but he enjoyed them. Did you know Studies show that therapy dogs provide children comfort while reading, with no judgement. They also help lower blood pressure and reading fluency increases after participating in a reading dogs program. Our son participated in the READing Paws program for 6 months and we saw a huge change in his reading fluency. I highly recommend programs like READing Paws if you have a struggling reader.
After our son's experience with the therapy dogs he was overcome with an excitement to read. Often I would find him reading to our own beloved pets! They seem to gravitate toward him when he is reading and he LOVES their attention.
After moving to the farm, our pets weren't the only ones being read to. Our son, being the bibliophile that he is, began reading to the barnyard animals! Cows, and chickens are all subject to his performances. Just this week I discovered him reading to our baby chicks about the Carboniferous time period... I'm not sure who enjoyed this more: him or the chicks. They got as close to him as possible and cuddled together with their eyes closed. Anytime he would stop or pause his narration they would open their eyes and chirp at him until he began to read again!
For our son, reading to animals has truly inspired him both in his reading confidence and fluency. Somehow they have been able to reach him in a way that myself and others couldn't. His love for them continues to lead him in his education. With their encouragement he is now off and running on his reading adventure.
Check with your local library to see if they offer free Therapy dog reading programs in your area.