FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

An Unlikely Solution to Our Children’s Reading Ailments

by BARBARA NIMRI AZIZ

American children are in the doldrums. Not their persons. It’s their reading skills that are in steady decline. In science, math and reading, compared to their peers across the world. American students make a poor showing. And professors report that an alarming number of students entering U.S. colleges require remedial classes in reading.

Educators are debating; parents are fretting; money is poured into research; all kinds of color-coded, pop-up and multi-media books are developed to help teach our young to read. Nationwide, costly and controversial charter schools are replacing public schools; parents are paying huge private school fees and hiring tutors for their children. What to do?

There is one modest but effective solution few educators mention when discussing children’s reading needs:—therapy dogs. This service is free, effective, and heartwarming. What’s going on?

In the course of my radio productions featuring local libraries in New York State, I interviewed ten librarians and asked each how they were addressing this national crisis. They know that schools can’t manage. They admit their libraries see few young visitors today; they say they’ll try anything to get children to handle books. Libraries buy iPads and other e-reading devices to loan out; they construct playrooms that overtake adult reading spaces; they budget for more computers. They bring in celebrities to read. Which brings me back to the dogs.

Mark Condon is a therapy dog-owner who trains people to train dogs to listen to children reading. Across the U.S. there are 1000s of women and men like Mark and his dog Dutchess and doubtless many more worldwide with the same skills and devotion. Just goggle “therapy dogs”.

Of course I’d known about seeing-eye dogs and the use of dogs for the elderly and for mentally disabled people. But reading?

Mark explains how reading therapy builds on dogs’ sociable nature, their need for attention and affection, their calmness and their long history living with humans. It also builds on children’s imagination. Mark describes the process: the dog is introduced to a class (this therapy is effective for ages 3-10) as a ‘guest’ and one child is selected to read to this ‘guest’. There’s no judgment by the dog of the readers’ abilities, no impatience, no noting errors or speech difficulties: an ideal atmosphere to engage and support the child. The animal listens quietly and even responds when the child shows it a page to illustrate a point from the story.

Apparently results of these programs are very positive; children’s reading abilities markedly improve.

Mark and his dog Dutchess, like therapy teams across the US, are volunteers. They’ll also train your dog, and you, to join the project. Look into it. And look for Mark’s book.

Barbara Nimri Aziz is an anthropologist and journalist, host and producer of Radio Tahrir (radioTahirr.org) broadcast on WBAI-NY from 1989-2013.

Barbara Nimri Aziz is a New York based anthropologist and journalist. Find her work at www.RadioTahrir.org. She was a longtime producer at Pacifica-WBAI Radio in NY.

May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail