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The Dog Aid My Homework

Most kids love dogs, but not all kids love reading aloud. For some children, reading in front of adults or peers makes them extremely anxious or embarrassed, and can contribute to them falling behind in reading fluency — a very dangerous road to go down.

A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.

But again: most kids love dogs. So here’s where Ghost, a champion show dog and great listener comes into the story.  Ghost’s owner Dawn Eliot-Johnson brings him to Harrison Elementary School every two weeks, where third and fourth-grade students read to him as he dutifully listens (and often sleeps) while curled up beside them. Ghost, along with many other dogs across the country perform this duty for kids who could use a bit of help reading aloud, and it’s not just a fun break from classroom routine… it works!

Kids who were once too shy or embarrassed about their skill level to read out loud are blossoming. They know that Ghost just wants to listen to a good story — no criticism, no corrections. It doesn’t take long for fear and anxiety to go out the window.

The idea is simple: it’s a privilege to read to a dog. Instead of reading aloud while focused on avoiding mistakes, they’re reading to an adoring, completely non-judgmental audience. Reading becomes a positive, rather than nerve-wracking experience; they gain confidence and an enjoyment in reading, which in turn improves comprehension and fluency. The dogs love it, too: it takes a special, gentle dog who doesn’t just tolerate, but truly enjoys children to thrive in this setting. And as a side-benefit, it also serves as a great opportunity to teach children another life-skill: how to behave safely and respectfully around dogs. Win-win!

Dogs are great listeners!

Dogs often make the best listeners!

Having kids read to pets to avoid anxiety and fear of judgment by adults or peers is not a new tactic — groups like R.E.A.D. and Reading with Rover have been around for years, but in case there are still any doubters out there, research is now demonstrating an improvement in reading fluency, showing that they’ve had the right idea all along.

The world of animal welfare can be such a battlefield at times, it would be a shame not to look up from the trenches from time to time to celebrate great ideas like this!

Mar 28, 2012 - Education    1 Comment

Taking Back the Conversation

NAIA is home to some of the top animal health, husbandry, welfare and performance experts in the United States. As experts, we view it as our responsibility to challenge popular, but incorrect information about animals that is presented by the media or stakeholder groups, including the many animal rights fundraising groups who dominate the conversation in popular culture today.

False notions are difficult to counter. Because of their appeal to our empathy, intuition, or personal prejudice, they are easily accepted as true and made part of a larger worldview. And with modern media, they can catch fire, spreading far and wide within seconds.

So how do most people determine the veracity of what they are hearing? In the absence of  contrary evidence and critical thinking, they don’t.

But at NAIA when we recognize that so-called “designer dogs” are being hyped as genetically healthier than pure-bred dogs without supporting evidence, we don’t turn to our neighbor, hairdresser, astrologer, or Oprah, but to the leading experts for additional information to put the subject in perspective. We reach out to top breeders, veterinarians, animal geneticists, and trainers – people with subject matter knowledge gained through formal education and hands-on experience – to see what they have to say.

Shelter Project Kitty is thankful vegan cat food has yet to catch on

Once investigated, it often becomes clear that the story isn’t complete at all – and it always ends up being more nuanced and complex than an email forward or Facebook feed. In the end, we may not prove any particular point, but that’s okay. Our goal is simply to provide better sources of information than we started with, information that lays the foundation for improved policies and practices.

This is what we do. In the end, you may not like our conclusions, but whenever an animal issue is clouded by hype or propaganda – be it views on animal husbandrypet overpopulationconformation policies, shelter dynamics, or contentious practices – you can be sure we will seek out the experts before setting our own policies.

If you’re not yet familiar with us yet, please check out our website, and if you like what you see, please support our efforts.  We’re here for you and need your help to fulfill our mission!