• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Reading to dogs helps 1st graders gain confidence

AVERY WOODSIDE, a first-grader at Woodford Christian School, read to Jagger at the Woodford Humane Society. "I liked when I read to the doggie and he just sat down and was really calm," said Avery, 6. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Watching one of her struggling readers gain self-confidence while reading to a dog helped explain why Tiffany Evans and her first-graders spent a part of their morning at the Woodford Humane Society instead of their classroom at Woodford Christian School last Friday. "I will do anything to get a kid excited about reading," said Evans. And her students were definitely excited after reading to their four-legged friends at the Woodford Humane Society. "I liked when I read to the doggie and he just sat down and was really calm," said Avery Woodside, 6. "I was giving him a treat and he came up to me and licked me," added Fletcher Branham, 7. Every student in Evans's first-grade class was paired with a dog, and they read stories to their furry friends while sitting on blankets provided by the Woodford Humane Society. Evans said she hopes last week's field trip to the Woodford Humane Society - two days after Read Across America Day - will inspire her first-graders to read more. She wants them to love reading as much as their first-grade teacher does. "We want them to be a very confident reader, because a confident reader will be a better reader," explained Evans. "And so we just try to do everything that we can to build up their confidence" as readers. Evans said a Woodford Christian School parent had posted an article on Facebook about children reading to dogs at a shelter. The story highlighted how reading eased the anxiety of dogs being housed in a shelter. Evans contacted the Woodford Humane Society about giving her students and their dogs a similar experience. She hopes this partnership continues with teacher Emily Woodside's kindergarten class and her first-graders "because I think this has been a really great, positive experience for my kids and the dogs," Evans said. "Just having the opportunity to have some quiet, calm, one-on-one interaction is really good for (our dogs)," said Beth Oleson, marketing director for the Woodford Humane Society. "It's just a chance for them to de-stress when the rest of their day is going to be a little bit more chaotic." The Woodford Humane Society has hosted children's groups for birthday parties and tours, but has never opened its doors for "a reading to dogs" program, according to Oleson. She said not knowing if the dogs would remain quiet when the first-graders were reading to them was her biggest concern. "But it's great. The dogs love the interaction," said Oleson. Before Evans and her students went on last week's fieldtrip, one first-grader reminded his teacher, "Dogs don't know how to read," and she responded, "but they know how to listen."

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