Raise your hand if you love to read. Yes, we're a gathering of authors and I'm willing to bet that each of us had the love of reading encouraged at an early age. I remember escaping into books early on. My mother taught me to read long before I was of school age. One of the stand-out days of my childhood was the day I finally got my very own library card. No longer did I have to borrow books on my mother's card. I was my own person, my own reader! Ahhh, the glory! The excitement! So many books, so little time! I've never quite gotten over that feeling, nor do I want to. It's impossible for me to imagine a world without books. It's unfathomable.
Even though I was a shy child, I had no problem reading aloud. I know that sounds odd but it's true. What is also true is that there are children who do have a problem with that. How do we help those children? The answer is already in practice. There are programs all over the United States that involve children reading to dogs in the classroom. Volunteers whose dogs have been trained for this, bring their dogs to the classroom on a regular schedule and each child has an opportunity to read to the dog. Dogs aren't judgmental, they don't care if you make mistakes or stutter or stumble, or whisper. They just listen. They provide a warm, gentle, loving, affirmative presence and allow each child to read at his or her own pace, out loud. The children gain confidence, enjoy the experience and begin to appreciate books and reading. Reading aloud becomes fun. This is a tremendous gift for each child and a gift of love and sharing from the dog owners who are dedicated to these reading programs.
The children read a variety of books, depending upon their age and reading level. Interestingly enough, a new series of books is in release for this purpose. Two have been published and a third is due out in October, just in time for the holiday season. Each book in the Planet of The Dogs series stands alone or can be read in sequence. The first, Planet of The Dogs, establishes the series. It's a sweet fantasy that provides the young reader with life lessons for interaction with their peers. It's the tale (tail?!) of the first time dogs came to Earth from their place on the other side of the sun. They arrived to teach humans about love. They also came to save the farmers of Green Valley from the invasion of the Stone City Warriors, a fable that's bound to appeal to children.
In the second book, Castle in The Mist, the dogs leave their peaceful, happy home to return to Earth and prevent war in the land of the Forest People as well as to free kidnapped children from the Castle in The Mist.
The third book, Snow Valley Heroes, brings the dogs back to Earth to save Christmas.
The books, written by Robert McCarty and charmingly illustrated by Stella Mustanoja McCarty, are appreciated by children of all ages but especially by those who are reading to dogs, sharing the calming presence of canines. How wonderful is that?!
It has been scientifically documented that dogs (and cats!) help lower our blood pressure. Dogs help the blind, they find cancer, they alert for migraines and seizures, they help the handicapped, and more. And all with a great deal of love. This is just the latest way in which our partnership with dogs is expressed, another way in which they help us. What a gift they give us. Speaking of gifts, as I have been throughout this post, these books might not be a bad one for the children in our lives. Even better: getting these books and Reading Dogs into our schools would go a long way in helping to bring about a new generation of confident, happy readers.
Causes Darlene Arden Supports
The Marcia Polimer Abrams Fund for Canine Behavior Studies at the AKC Canine Health Foundation