Jeremiah helps kids read, Frenchie style
By: Pamela Loeb Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |
There is a new and exciting project underway at Fidos For Freedom, Inc., and since both of my dogs and myself are involved, I have decided to share the project with all of you. This column originally appeared in The Frenchie Forum, the quarterly magazine that is the newsletter for the French Bulldog Club of America.
Every quarter The Frenchie Forum publishes an article about dogs that have earned new titles since the previous issue. The article is titled “The Educated Frenchie” and is devoted to performance titles. I realize that performance and Frenchies may sound like an oxymoron, but you’d be amazed! Anyway, I told the contact person that I didn’t have any new titles, but that my dog was now an educatING Frenchie!
You see, Jeremiah (MGM’s Mighty Fine Wine, CGC) and I volunteer as a therapy dog team with an organization called Fidos For Freedom, Inc. Fido’s mission is to increase the quality of life in the Baltimore, Maryland-Washington, DC, area through the use of specially trained dogs. Fido’s primary purpose is to train hearing and service dogs for people who have disabilities. We also take our specially trained personal pets to nursing homes and hospitals for pet therapy visits.
So why is Jeremiah an educating Frenchie? In the past year, several Fido’s volunteers became quite interested in the concept of dogs helping children to learn to read. Learning to read out loud is especially difficult for some children, since they are then open to criticism from their peers. In the same way that therapy dogs provide unconditional love to people in health care facilities, they can provide a non-judgmental audience for a child.
The volunteers set about the task of doing the research on the topic and presenting a proposal to the Fido’s Board of Directors. The program was named DEAR – Dogs Educating and Assisting Readers. Once the idea had been approved by the organization, the next step was to find out if there was a school that was interested in such a program. That is when fate stepped in and placed one of our volunteers in a classroom beside a teacher whose elementary school had a strong literacy campaign. Apparently, 60 percent of the students at this school speak English as a second language, so they are learning to both read and write, as well as speak, in English.
It was decided that we would implement a pilot project for four weeks during the summer school session. Fifteen teams of dogs and handlers made themselves available for these four Fridays. An equal number of students was selected from the student population, and matched with a dog and handler team. The matching was done randomly as this was a brand new experience for all of us!
Upon entering the school on the very first day, none of us really knew what to expect. Would these children speak any English? Would they know how to read at all? None of us are teachers, so we were all a little apprehensive about our own teaching skills.
The dogs, on the other hand, settled in to the task at hand rather easily! We had lovely portable mats donated by a local pet supply store, who was sponsoring the DEAR program. Each dog made himself comfortable on his mat waited for his student.
Jeremiah and I were matched with a seven-year-old boy, coincidentally named Nehemiah. Nehemiah could read, but was either below grade level or wasn’t confident when reading out loud. Jeremiah took one look at this young man, and climbed right into his lap and settled in! Who could resist such a charming dog? Certainly not Nehemiah!
We began with some information about Frenchies from the AKC’s breed book for children. Then, we had some flash cards with words printed on them that came from the breed profile. Nehemiah was able to find the words on the cards within the printed breed information. It had been explained to us that some of the children were very adept at memorizing words, and might not actually be reading them, so this was one way to find out their level.
Each team was assigned a children’s book to start with, and when I asked if Nehemiah wanted me to read to him, he opted to read to Jeremiah and me instead. Once we situated both the book and the Frenchie on his lap, Nehemiah proceeded to read most of the book to me! Jerry kept his snoring to a minimum and basked in the attention he thought was directed at him.
As of this writing, we have completed the summer pilot program and have already been invited back to continue the program in September, so apparently we are doing something right! Our only concern is that if the program works too well, we may not have enough volunteers to staff it!
If anyone has any questions about either the DEAR program or Fidos For Freedom, Inc., you may check our website at www.fidosforfreedom.org, or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Pamela Loeb |