Hadley is dying to read. At six, she is mostly there. Yet she sees her older brother and sister curled up with chapter books and she longs to be just like them. Like any learned skill in life, she just needs a bit more time and practice. Gordie met someone from southern Vermont recently who works with children struggling to read by involving dogs. The theory has been tested and proven to be amazingly successful: put the child alone in a room with some easy reader books and a dog. Encourage the child to read to the dog. The idea is that reading to a dog is far less intimidating and less stressful for children than reading to an adult. All dog owners know the joy these animals bring us with their many wonderful attributes, including the fact that they can’t criticize us. In a nutshell, the children who have done this have had very positive results in becoming more fluent readers.
We decided to have Hadley try this last weekend. She absolutely adores our dog, Baxter, and savors time along with him. Hadley is a very sensitive and caring child. She is very curious and has a great sense of humor. Having spend her entire life trying to keep up with her siblings, she can also be easily distracted at times. There are many mornings where she is side-tracked trying to get ready for school and she is sprinting for the bus with not a second to spare. There are many evenings where I have found her so engrossed in her bath toys that the water is about to pool over the top of the tub. This being said, Gordie and I were very interested in seeing how her canine reading time might go.
She loved the idea right away, so we set her up in an upstairs bedroom with what she needed, and closed the door. I did notice Baxter had wandered in with his new bone, but since Hadley was the “teacher”, I figured she would deal with him appropriately. What came next was unexpected, adorable, and hilarious all at once. Within about two minutes, the door flung open and she announced that she was “Unhappy with Baxter because he wouldn’t settle down.” I encouraged her to try again, and with my ear glued to the door, I heard her bang out a few more lines in her book about a bear hunt. Then came the pause and a very long sigh. I could imagine her staring down the dog as I heard her small yet stern voice proclaim, “Baxter! I need you to focus!” With that, the door flung open a second time, and the bone came launching out onto the rug before I saw Hadley close the door and try again. I don’t think they got very far, but Hadley seemed optimistic. She came out with a big smile on her face, rolled her eyes, and said, “He just doesn’t want to listen.” I smiled in a warm way, wanting her to know that I could totally relate.
Once upon a dog has just begun. We’ll see what happens next!