“Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.” Emily Dickinson
I’m willing to try just about anything to help children fall in love with reading, but today’s suggestion is way out there, even for me. Boston’s Daily Dose Health News suggests that children who read regularly to their dogs improve reading words per minute. These children also showed a slight increase in positive attitudes toward reading. I like this kind of thinking and I’m willing to give it a try! First though, I’ll need to start reading to my dog and see what sorts of obstacles occur.
Here are my suggestions about reading, coming from a person who really didn’t like to read as a child.
Falling in love with reading: When I taught middle school science, my goal was to help all students fall in love with science. As an elementary teacher, I need a passion for all of the subjects I teach. One of my favorite goals is to help my students fall in love with reading, and I find that reading aloud to them often helps them get hooked. Each year, I choose a few read-a-louds that I know they will grab with excitement. We don’t speed through these books. In fact, we take a lot of time reading them– expanding on the characters. We relate to and help those characters come alive in class. In our class conversations, we often discuss characters and we get letters and writing prompts written from the characters to our students in class. This builds excitement for reading. My favorite story for young children is Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech. It’s easy to help children connect with these characters because the characters differ so much from each other that students can easily relate to them.
Getting the right books to the right children: I know there is a book that will “turn on” a certain child to reading. The problem is to find a way to get that book in the hands of the child that will love it. I use an interest survey and book recommendations to do this, but it’s still a daily challenge for me.
Getting a child to read a large number of books from various genres: This summer I read a wonderful book by a 6th grade language arts teacher called The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. She suggests that every child needs to read books they choose and a lot of them. She feels that 40 books from various genres a year is a magic number. Something in the brain seems to click after the children read the first 40 books. Basically, reading causes children to love to read. This year I’m going for something similar in my third grade class. Whatever it takes to help these children learn to love reading, maybe even reading to their dogs, will be worthwhile.
If the dog experiment works for even one of my twenty students this year, it will have been a worthy experiment. What do you do to encourage your children or your students to read?