Reading Buddy Dogs Lily and King are assigned three students to work with each week through the end of the school year. The aspiration for each is that reading aloud to a friendly, non-judgmental dog will help improve their fluency and self-confidence as readers.
The students are selected because they are reading below grade level. This year, we have three boys in the third grade. Reader one has the most difficulty with his reading. His sight word vocabulary is severely limited. During his 15 minute reading time slot, it is a struggle for him to finish one book with just a few pages and only a couple of words per page. On top of this, he is afraid of dogs.
I didn’t realize at first that he was afraid of dogs. Since his teacher selected him to participate in this special type of program using dogs,I assumed he was just very shy.
But, I saw him withdraw his arm quickly a couple of times when either King or Lily drew near him, and he didn’t want to brush the dogs a bit, as the other children do-with delight-after their reading is over. One day, I asked him if he is afraid of dogs and he nodded. Then, in a very quite voice, he told me he had been bitten by a mean dog. I explained that there are mean dogs and we all need to be careful of them, but not all dogs are mean and Lily and King are very friendly dogs that love boy and girls. I asked him if he’d rather not read with the dogs. Much to my surprise, his answer was a quiet no.
So together we set a plan in motion: Would you like to sit in a chair, rather than on the rug with the dog? I asked. A quiet, Yes, was his reply.
I retrieved a chair and put it at a distance of 4 feet from the dog. How’s that? Okay? I asked…. No. He wanted the chair 6 feet from the dog. That felt comfortable. The deal, though, was that he would have to read in a much louder voice so Lily or King could hear him read…. That was a struggle. He was barely audible.
And, so it’s been this way for many weeks. Until today!
One of our readers was absent today, so I split the reading time two ways instead of three. I thought this would prove to be tough for our super reluctant, fearful reader…. but today the tables turned. The books were longer, the words were sounded out, and his voice showed confidence. Best of all, he smiled, and kept smiling. He completed one book, then chose a second book. When he was finished, he asked if he could PET LILY!!!! All smiles, he started with her ear, then the top of her head, then down the side of her leg.