Teachers give R.E.A.D. top marks!
Ottawa and the National Capital Region face many unique literacy challenges with the growing number of immigrant students attending elementary schools and the popularity of French immersion programs. Our R.E.A.D. program effortlessly crosses all cultural (and socioeconomic) lines, since dogs are unbiased and nonjudgmental. As well, many of our R.E.A.D. teams (including the dogs!) are bilingual and equally comfortable reading with a child in either French or English. When a child speaks another language at home, being able to practice reading in English or French in a comfortable, safe learning environment with a relaxed, attentive dog as a companion is invaluable.
One key to the success of the R.E.A.D. experience is a shift away from children viewing themselves as the target of yet another remedial program and toward seeing themselves as tutors and helpers for the dog. This is both liberating and satisfying for the children, and frees them from performance pressure.
R.E.A.D. School Programs
In a school environment, a R.E.A.D. team volunteers to work one-on-one in a quiet area with two to three students each week over the course of the term or school year. The dog and handler spend about twenty minutes with each student. Continuously working with the same students over the length of the term or school year is the best way to track progress and achieve measurable improvements in reading levels.
While much of our local results are anecdotal, we are in the process of compiling data to track the reading progress of children in the Ottawa and National Capital Region participating in the R.E.A.D. program. That said, many other organizations with a long history of implementing the R.E.A.D. program in both Canada and the U.S. have documented their progress extensively. For these results, please visit http://www.therapyanimals.org/Research_%26_Results.html.
Teachers, reading specialists and library professionals who have incorporated R.E.A.D. into their primary education programs have been unanimous in their enthusiasm for the idea that children who struggle with reading will benefit from the opportunity to tackle their challenges in the presence of an accepting, nonjudgmental animal companion.
R.E.A.D. in Libraries
As a supplement to in-school activities, our library programs are special events held in branches of the Ottawa Public Library and usually run on Saturday afternoons for about three weeks, but can also be offered as an ongoing monthly event. Readers may register early or drop in the same day (as space allows) and read one-on-one with the dog for about 15 minutes. Many children choose to attend more than one afternoon in the series and programs are often fully booked in advance. Librarians choose a selection of appropriate books at different reading levels for the children to consider or children can bring their own special book to share with their R.E.A.D. dog. It works best if R.E.A.D. teams are settled in a quiet area of the Children’s Library with their blanket and books. The Sunnyside, Alta Vista and Ruth E. Dickinson branches of the Ottawa Public Library as well as the Chelsea Library, have offered our popular R.E.A.D. program in the National Capital Region. There is also an after-school tutoring program offered at the Manotick Public Library.
A quick note on insurance: although happily we’ve never had to use it, members of Ottawa Therapy Dogs are covered by liability insurance.
If you’d like further information on bringing our R.E.A.D. program into your school or library, please Contact Us.