Friday, October 7, 2016

Learning to read? Think outside the cage.

Problem #1: Many children are shy about reading out loud. They know they'll be stopped and corrected if they mispronounce a word. But what if they had a listener who never corrected them, and loved hearing their voice? Problem #2: When dogs are brought to a shelter, the animals usually crouch fearfully in the back of their kennels. But dogs most likely to be adopted are always relaxed in the front of their kennels, trustful of humans. Last December, the Humane Society of Missouri found a way to solve both these problems.

Boys and girls who want to "help" at the Humane Society can join the Shelter Buddies Reading Program. All they need to bring is a book, or two. The program coaxes dogs into trusting humans by having children sit in front of the kennel of a dog they want to read to. As the dogs slowly adjust to the presence of humans, they move forward until they are sitting in front of the child. But the dogs never interrupt the readers or correct them. Children are also encouraged to give a treat to dogs who make it to the front of the kennel by the time they finish their book. The program has been a huge success. The Humane Society's assistant director, JoEllyn Klepacki, says results have been "just amazing."

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