Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer Days and a Good Read

Summer Educational Post by Alice Knisley Matthias
Summer days and a good read have always been a pairing as enjoyable as an ice cream cone and colored sprinkles.  Use the summer vacation to help encourage school-age readers to read what they are interested in and nurture the idea of reading as an activity of leisure.  Maybe there is a topic or a person that was a focus of a class assignment that can be expanded upon or a book title a young reader may have heard about.  Whatever the topic, use this time of year to help children view reading not as something they “have to do” but find the love for making it something they “want to do.”
Many studies have shown that it is best to try to avoid the dreaded “summer brain drain” by keeping readers on track during a vacation period and avoid sliding backward in reading ability gained during the academic school calendar.  Part of that philosophy is the idea to find what a reader is interested in and allow the child to read about that topic during vacation time.  Try to find out what sparked an interest in a child during the school year and expand on the subject area. 
For emergent readers, or students who are struggling, new research from the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine reveals that a child can build confidence in reading skills by reading aloud to a pet.  The study focused on children ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old who read aloud to therapy dogs for intervals of time of approximately 15 to 20 minutes.  The key to the study was the fact that the children read the passages aloud to “listeners” who appeared to be engaged in what was being read to them.  The way text is decoded and comprehended differs when a child is not just reading, but verbalizing speech, in the process as well. 
At the conclusion of the study, many children reported  feeling more relaxed after reading to the dogs and the parents noted how much more comfortable and confident the children appeared to be with their reading ability.
This process works best with a dog, or cat, or any animal that appears to be engaged in what is being read to them.  One of the coauthors of the study says you shouldn’t dismiss a guinea pig, bird, hamster or a pet fish as a potential audience.  Anything that gets a child to reads aloud is a big help and beneficial to reading comprehension and confidence.   

Illustration by Jan Cornebise and is copyrighted by Stories for Children Publishing, LLC - All rights reserved 2011


  1. I will definitely pass this along. I love the idea of encouraging young readers to read to their pets. Very cool! And after teaching 35 years, I know it's absolutely true that the more you read the better you get at reading. Great topic, Virginia!



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