Monthly Archives: February 2015

Reading to an Animal Builds Confidence

by Katrina Morse, Family Reading Partnership

MadisonReadingtoJack3

Madison Deljoo, age 8 of Ithaca, reads to her cat Jack, who looks on with great interest. Reading to an animal is a non-threatening way for children to practice reading aloud.

Read to a dog? Read to a cat? Yes! That can be just the thing for a beginning reader. Animals love the hugs and petting they receive when they are paired up with early readers. And children love having a non-judgmental audience when they practice reading.

If you have a pet at home and a child just learning to read, see what happens when they are together sharing a book. Pick a time when your pet is relaxed and resting and your child can sit nearby and read aloud. If you don’t have a pet, try a stuffed animal sitting on your child’s lap, “listening,” without interrupting or correcting.

The Cornell Companions, based in Ithaca, NY, are a group of pets accompanied by volunteers who have been listening to children read aloud for years. These animals, who are mostly dogs, visit area schools, libraries, nursing homes, hospitals and other venues to enhance the lives of children and adults. At schools and libraries they become “reading dogs.”

For an animal visit, kids usually choose books from what they have at school, because when the children read what they are already know well, it helps build their confidence. If a child needs help with a word while reading to their animal, they can skip over it or the animal handler, classroom teacher, or aide can offer a suggestion.

One volunteer, John Martindale, regularly brings his show-dog, a Rottweiler named Tank, to listen to children read at area schools. Martindale says that when children first see Tank they are a little intimidated by his 110 lbs. size, but then the children get to know him and some even lie down with their head on him, using Tank as a pillow when they read.

Sometimes Tank pays attention, but other time he rolls over on his back and falls asleep. When Penelope the rabbit comes to schools she sits very quietly; and when the llama visits on special occasions, she gets a lot of petting before children settle down to read. It’s all part of the read-aloud experience and helps children see that reading is fun to do.

Of course a child can read any book to a pet, but it’s fun to read a story about animals and imagine that maybe the furry friends understand just a little. Here are some books to try:

“Three Stories You Can Read to Your Cat” by Sara Swan Miller, illustrated by True Kelley. “The Rainy Day,” “The Yummy Bug,” and “The Good Day” are three short stories about all the things that could be a part of your cat’s day–nibbling plants, sharpening claws on the rug, diving into the garbage, and stalking insects. The humorous text accurately portrays the finicky, quirky nature of felines.

The “McDuff” books by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, are about a little Westie dog that will steal your heart with his adventures through seasons and situations. The expressions of McDuff, with head cocked to the side in an inquisitive look, will be familiar to anyone with a lap-sized dog.

“Biscuit Goes to School” by Allyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories, is an “I Can Read” book especially for beginners. Biscuit is a little puppy who wants to do everything like his owner, including going to school and listening to stories! Very few words on each page help keep the attention of young children practicing reading.

 

 

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Words of Love

There are few words you can say to your child that are more important than simply saying, “I love you.” With these three words you can bring a smile to a face, warmth to a heart, and joy to your child. Saying “I love you” gives you a chance to change the course of an entire day, and the power to imprint love and security in your child’s heart forever!

Saying “I love you,” or other words that show you care, gives your children the confidence and strong self-esteem that is the foundation of good emotional health. They will learn how to ask for what they need, express how they feel, and respond to others with compassion. You can give your children positive words in your everyday family life by talking, writing, and reading. Here are some ideas to try at home:

Talk. There are so many words that say, “I love you.” Hearing these nurturing words lets your children know that they are important, they are cared for, and they are loved. When said with a snuggle or a hug, these words mean even more! You can say: I am so happy you are _____ (my son/ my daughter/ part of our family)! • I love to watch you _______ (play, draw, hear you sing, see you run, etc.) • You are so smart in so many ways. • It is okay to make mistakes. • I know you can do it! You did it! I love how you did that! • There is no one like you in the whole world! • You make me smile.

Write. “I love you” messages can bring happiness to your child over and over again when you write them down. • Tuck an “I love you” note under your child’s pillow. • Pin one to a backpack. • Write a message with soap on the mirror. • Keep a jar of “I love you” messages to use any time. • Make mailboxes out of empty cereal boxes for each person in your family to send messages back and forth. • Help your child write down an “I love you” message to a friend or loved one.

BookHeart

Read. Snuggle up with your child and read one of these picture books about love and kindness and talk about what happens in the story. • “How Kind!” by Mary Murphy • “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney • “I Love You Little One” by Nancy Tafuri • “All Together Now” by Anita Jeram • “I’ll Always Love You” by Paeony Lewis • “Because of You” by B.G. Hennesy.

Giving your child words of love has a huge impact. In the words of Peggy O’Mara, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” For more ideas, download a Words of Love bookmark at www.familyreading.org.

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