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Need an audience? Read to the dog! October 14, 2008

 

I’m always interested in new read-aloud exercises to help improve children’s confidence and reading skills, and believe wholeheartedly in the ideas of school reading buddies, and reading to siblings at home (which is a relationship booster too).

But here’s a new one on me: reading to the dog?

OK, I’m listening…

Starting this evening, the Great Falls, Montana Public Library and the Great Falls Animal Shelter are slated to begin their “Read to an Orphan” program, which promotes reading and pet adoption in tandem.

What does reading have to do with pet adoption, you may ask? Well, say organizers, the “Read to an Orphan” program “aims to reduce the number of dog bites through education and interaction, while also promoting reading and pet adoption.”

Reports Montana’s KRTV station, a CBS affiliate, an animal control officer will bring one orphaned dog from the animal shelter to the library, featuring a new dog each month. “Children will then be able to read to the dog – and other attendees – to foster better reading skills and promote healthy interaction with both people and pets.”

Organizers hope people will come to the library to see the dogs, and afterward visit the shelter to see who else may need a home.

I think this is a great idea — but reading to a dog (or cat, for that matter) need not be just a novelty. You can try it at home. Can’t you picture your young budding reader eager to share some skills with a quiet and ever-attentive listener?

My two older children read mostly to themselves these days. But with our twins on the way, and my clamping onto this novel idea, our dog Gypsy may be able to look forward to more literary exposure than the average dog experiences. And I think she’ll love it.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

visit www.magicbookshelfonline.com

 

The end of bedtime stories? September 4, 2008

Filed under: In the News — jbmcqueen @ 5:16 pm
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A Scottish news source reports the ritual bedtime story may be becoming a thing of the past, and that, for busy, overworked families, “watching TV has edged in front of a bedtime story as the most common pre-sleep habit among children.”

“A survey of 1,500 parents by the pre-school toddler activity group Talking Tots found the phenomenon [of reading aloud] was being lost. In the study, half of all parents said they never read more than one book at bedtime, while one in ten said their child never read a bedtime story – instead, falling asleep watching a DVD or listening to an audio book,” writes Tanya Thompson in the September 4 Scotsman. (By the way, I’m in Georgia, USA, but just attuned to things Scottish because of my ancestry.)

I’m as guilty as anyone at sometimes providing electronic substitution at bedtime, especially as the boys get older, in the form of audio books or the children’s record player, an eBay treasure found by my mother when Riley was 3 (he’s now 11). Scotsman seems to think I’m in good company. “With time constraints increasing, plenty of parents have sat on the edge of the bed, speed-reading their way through their child’s favourite book, with one eye on the clock, while dreading the inevitable question: “Mummy, can I have another story?”

And I’ve always been in favor of finding other times of day to read aloud, too. In the doctor’s office, during breakfast before school, even in a traffic jam. I’m also a big advocate of sharing good books in general, of showing children what good writing is and letting them hear the language. The issue to me is, making sure the time is found.

Bedtime is a cozy time, the traditional “story time.” Particularly for smaller children, who crave ritual and routine.

But it’s not the only time. Professor Cary Cooper, a psychologist from Scotland’s Lancaster University, says it is all about striking the right balance. “A recent survey showed one-third of parents spend only one hour a night with their kids. The point is people are so stressed out, they don’t have the patience and the time to sit and read with their children, which is worrying.

“The relationship with the kids is what’s important. It’s about being there and bonding with them so you can be a part of their childhood experience.”

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

Visit magicbookshelfonline.com