Students at Gilmer Elementary and Intermediate school have enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the Silver Paws' Read 2 Me program. We had only expected to raffle off reading times to those students who met the required number of reading minutes in our Summer Reading Challenge. It was a wonderful surprise that the Silver Paws organization opted to read with every student who had met the reading challenge and we are grateful for the generosity that was extended to our students
Some students read over the summer for the pure joy of reading while many other students were motivated to read as they wanted to be in the drawing to read with one of the dogs in the Read 2 Me Program. Over the course of three days, the Silver Paws therapy dog teams were all so busy with our students that not everyone had an opportunity to hear all the comments and/or see all the reactions to the Read 2 Me visit, so I wanted to take a minute to share the following with you:
Some kindergarten students who are just beginning to read and some students who are reluctant readers, readily snuggled up to a dog and read and/or spoke to the dogs about the pictures and what happened in the story. Students who are just developing their literacy skills are often hesitant to read and sometimes view reading as a mundane chore. This is certainly not the case with the Read 2 Me dogs.
The dogs brought a calmness to the students and helped them relax and concentrate as reading took place in the library filled with other dogs, readers, parents, and staff members. The hustle and bustle that took place never distracted the student and/or dog. An ice cream truck could have driven through the library and not one student would have noticed!
It was wonderful to see all of the Read 2 Me humans engaging students in conversations about the book that was read and helping students to read.
As one student departed, she was sad and stated that when she went to the Intermediate school, the following year, that she would never have the opportunity to read to a Silver Paws dog. Once she was informed that the program extended into the Intermediate grades, she perked up and stated that she would be doing the reading challenge over the summer.
One particular dog, Henry, is part of the Glimer Elementary family. Down the 2nd grade hallway is a classroom that has a designated corner with a mat and sign with Henry’s name on it. The students look forward to the visit and know that they must behave in a particular manner for Henry to feel welcome and comfortable.
Brain research indicates that learning can be maximized when students have connections and feel comfortable rather than stressed. All the students had very positive interactions with the Read 2 Me program and it is my hope that students have come to learn that reading can be enjoyable, rewarding, and can have a social component of sharing thoughts and ideas with others, including canines. I most certainly will be working on ways to incorporate the Read 2 Me dogs in future events throughout the school year and incorporate the program into the Summer Reading Challenge at the end of the year.
Again, thank you for extending this wonderful opportunity to our students and for all the hard work and dedication of the dogs and their humans to such a wonderful cause.
Written By: Lisa Killebrew, Director of Literacy Gilmer ISD