Omantribune
Oman Tribune
Omantribune
Omantribune Search News
Web Oman
    Google Search Button
      Tribune
- Oman
- Soccer World Cup
- Other Top Stories
- Middle East
- Business
- Sports
- India
- Pakistan
- Asia
- Europe
- Americas
- Columnists
- Editorial
- Oman Mirror
- Special Features
- Cinema
- PDF Pages
- Weather
- Travel
- Currency Rate
- Hospitals
- Pharmacies
- Services
- Flight Timings
- Museum Timings
Omantribune Home Omantribune About Us Omantribune Advertising Information Omantribune Archives Omantribune Subscribe-Form Omantribune Jobs Omantribune Contact Us
Wednesday, October 01, 2014  
Learn with the pooch
A growing number of libraries in the US invites volunteers to come with dogs to make the learning process interesting for kids, writes Susan Svrluga

Sean Sullivan chose a book, sat down on the library rug and explained to Tavish that he was going to read him a mystery about a hidden treasure.

Tavish, never one to turn down a good story, wagged his short red tail and put his head on Sean’s knee.

On the other side of the room, tucked into the back of the children’s section of an Alexandria, Virginia, library, Jonathan Mendez was reading with a Spanish accent to a black Portuguese water dog named Skipper. A golden retriever was sprawled out in another corner, and a tiny toy poodle sat up, bright eyed, as a girl read to him about an alligator.

“If you’re reading aloud in school to a whole class, you might be nervous,” said Sean, who’s 8. “But the dogs are really here to listen.”

A growing number of libraries and some schools are inviting volunteers to bring their dogs in to help children learn, hoping the pets will calm children who are struggling, excite those who are bored and help kids equate reading with fun.

At the Charles E. Beatley Junior Central Library in Alexandria on a recent night, there was a waiting list for Paws to Read, with children clutching books outside the room hoping to get a turn.

Some had learning disabilities, and their parents wanted them to practice in a non-judgmental place. Some were learning English and liked reading without having their pronunciation corrected with every word. Some were shy about speaking up in class. And some, like Sean and his sister Mary, love reading and had been looking forward all week to reading to Tavish, a Hungarian Vizsla.

“They have so much fun,” librarian Ginny Rawls said. “The kids just light up. It’s really a wonderful programme. I can’t say enough good things about it.”

There must be some downsides.

“Well,” Rawls paused to consider. “Shedding?”

It took a while for Cynthia Power — a teacher at Virginia’s Ashlawn Elementary School and a volunteer with People Animals Love, or PAL, a Washington nonprofit group that brings well-mannered, friendly dogs to nursing homes and other places — to get programs started in libraries. She explained the idea at various branches a few years ago and even left business cards from her small fluffy dog, Humphrey. “But no bites,” she said.

She has heard from sceptics: “ ‘This is all we need — people teaching their children to read by reading to a dog.’ “ But it’s not about teaching at all, she said.

“Children never get a chance to read without someone telling them they mispronounced a word or skipped part of the story,” Power said. “We don’t give children that chance to just enjoy reading.”

Marcia Invernizzi, a reading education professor at the University of Virginia, said reading to dogs won’t, by itself, make a child a better reader. But she liked the idea of motivating children, and she noted several potential benefits. Not least, reading aloud is crucial for beginning readers, she said, because children sound out letters and recognise words when they hear them. The more teachers and parents find ways for them to enjoy doing that, the better.

Now, there are lots of places in the region where children can read to dogs, and Rene Wallis, the head of PAL, can’t find enough volunteers to fill all the requests she gets from librarians. Not every dog is cut out for it: They can’t be biters, barkers, jumpers, growlers.

But you can have a licker. That’s Tavish. As Sean read The Maze of Bones, Tavish would jump up every so often and unleash a long pink tongue. Sean would giggle, dry his face with his sleeve and read on.

Valeria Gonzalez, 7, liked the little dog she was with “because she cares a lot and listens very carefully.”

After a while, Rawls came in to let a different set of children have a chance. Binyam Gebremeskel read with an Ethiopian accent and patted Lucy, a poodle wearing a red velvet cape. A girl brought a story about a dog to Skipper, whose owner noted, “Very topical!” One child didn’t show up for her 15-minute slot, so Sean curled up on the floor with the golden retriever, AnnaBelle, while 10-year-old Diego Diaz-Tello brought Johnny Tremain for Tavish.

Some children snuggle with the dogs, some sit cross-legged across from them and then turn the book around after reading each page, showing the dog the pictures as a teacher would to a class. Diego, a smart boy with autism, found a small chair and sat down rigidly, not looking at the volunteer or the book, frowning across the room at a blank wall.

He doesn’t like to read at home, his mother, Julissa Tello, said, but he seemed to relax when they brought in a therapy dog once a week to the Ivymount School; he became more open to trying new things and completing his classwork. She thought he might click with Paws to Read.

After a long silence, Tavish’s owner, Tracy Baetz, asked Diego whether he wanted to give Tavish a treat. Diego smiled as Tavish licked it out of his hands, and he told Baetz that he has a beagle at home. He began reading, stopping now and then to ask questions about Tavish or to rub his soft ears. Tavish’s little tail thumped.

When Diego was finished, he asked his mom if they could come back soon.

Owners stood up, grabbed leashes. Children gathered armfuls of books to check out at the front desk. Tavish jumped up, and licked Baetz. Rawls looked at Sean and started laughing. He was covered in fur, and beaming. “I see you’re really taking the programme home with you,” she said.

Washington Post-Bloomberg
NEWS UPDATES
Oman
Student company Juthoor wins top Sharikati award
Onsecs celebrates 40th anniversary
Ma’awali hosts women journalists
Mineral sector offers many opportunities
Oman Air unveils new services for first, business class fliers
Other Top Stories
Anger boils over as settlers occupy Palestinian homes
Myanmar sticks to controversial Rohingya plan
27 candidates in Tunisia presidential poll
Likely import of IS idealogy worries SE Asia
India
Special sitting to hear Jaya bail petition today
Officer who raked up ‘Snoopgate’ against Modi arrested in graft case
Government tightens grip on illegal Chinese cracker import
‘Golden Triangle’ gives tough test for parties in Maharashtra
Modi to wield broom for cleaning mission
56pc of country’s users addicted to Internet
India, US natural partners, says Modi
Country’s terror not home-grown: PM
One in 5 girls faces sexual assault
Petrol price cut by 54 paisa per litre
Pakistan
PML-N to support PTI renegade Hashmi in Multan by-elections
16,000 kids fail to get polio jabs as kin say ‘No’
China to help start $130m wind power plant in Sindh
Bilawal to start democratic journey, hold rallies in Punjab
Madonna helps activist set up Dream School in Karachi
Online harassment of women on rise
Middle East
Kuwait reforms on track, state subsidies reduced, says IMF
US air raids hit support base of FSA offshoots
Iran pledges equipment for Lebanon army to battle terror
Syria refugees in Lebanon face ‘rising violence’
Haj pilgrims see IS as virus threatening world
Syrians fleeing IS offensive try luck in LatAm
Asia
HK activists set for long haul
Australian cops arrest terror funder in raid
US signs historic pact to keep troops in Afghanistan after 2014
Thai tourists to get safety wristbands
Japan halts volcano search over fresh eruption fears
Filipino couple jailed over ‘crush videos’
Business
Italian firm signs deal to help PEIE develop Ibri Logistics Area
Higher Opec supply, strong dollar hit Brent
Gulf economies’ growth to quicken in 2015 despite sliding oil
NBO to raise $500m through 5-year bonds
India leaves interest rates unchanged
RBI keeps rates on hold to take on inflation
Microsoft to tap India cloud market
Asian buyers cut down on Iran crude imports
RBI seeks to lower undue volatility in rupee exchange rates: Rajan
Amanat looks to raise $374m via Dubai IPO
India core industries rise 5.8%
Europe
Cameron backs UK’s stay in EU for ‘pragmatism’
UKIP snags Barnes in fresh blow to Tories
Catalonia launches legal battle after suspension of referendum
UK mulls steps to check extremist groups, radical preachers
Killings shake Ukraine truce
Octogenarian dupes EU court over suicide law
Sports
Lions succumb to Perth Scorchers
Omani youth and expats to play in Div. A
GCC women’s cricket in Oman
Newcastle yet to taste win in six games
Under-cooked Man United consider extra friendlies
‘Beaten up’ Santos to play for FC Goa in ISL
Narine reported for suspect action
SA include Philander in tour squad
Djordjevic ’tricks as Lazio trump Palermo
Doping takes gloss from Games
Nishioka ends Japan’s 40-year title drought
India, Pakistan to clash in final
Bone-crunching kabaddi a knockout hit
Nadal powers past Gasquet in Beijing
Americas
US Congress vote on campaign against IS likely to be delayed
Rousseff extends lead over Silva in election race
US beheading suspect charged with murder
White House breach unacceptable: Secret Service chief
Man charged with selling smartphone spying app
Foley picture removed from ad after uproar

Sports


International

© 2013 Oman Tribune. All rights reserved. Best viewed in 800 X 600 resolution