This week, we met Bear the dog, our beautifully understated village celebrity. Bear was trained to be a guide dog but did not quite manage to graduate. Consequently, he was adopted by our neighbours and has since become the most loved furry friend in the area. Children will knock on Bear’s door and ask if he would like to come out and play, they make him cards for his birthday and greet him with big smiles and hugs. Bear is as calm as can be and takes all this attention in his stride. Thanks to his lovable nature, he is in high demand.
Bear goes to the school bus stop each morning to see the children off to school, he sometimes get onto the bus as well as the driver is a big fan and often has a tempting treat or two. During the day, Bear goes to school himself for ‘Read to Bear’ afternoons. Children cuddle up with him on the carpet in their book corner and read a story to Bear. Sometimes, they will find a story with a dog featured in it (or a Bear) and tell Bear that they picked the book especially for him.
This furry opportunity to improve their reading skills can inspire young people to become life-long readers. A child, especially one having trouble learning, may be reluctant to read aloud in front of a teacher or class. However, when a child sits down to read to a dog or other furry animal, something magical happens. The dog’s tail begins to wag and the child smiles and relaxes. The child begins to look forward to the reading time because their dog friend listens calmly to every single word without criticizing or judging. In a short space of time, the child’s parents and teachers begin to notice something different; the child, perhaps once shy and reserved in the classroom, begins to put up their hand and volunteer to read aloud or, for the first time, goes to check out a book from the library to read at home.
It is vitally important that children become proficient readers in the early years in order for them be successful in school subjects, across the board. All school assessments start with a focus on the essentials of English and Maths, whether pre-tests, 11+ Common Entrance or 13+ Common Entrance. Reading is vital; misinterpreting a question, whether in an Entrance Exam or in a National Exam – easy to do even at GCSE or A-Level - can cost heavily. Some small but powerful ideas like reading to Bear can make the experience of reading a pleasure rather than a chore from day one Once there is more motivation to read and understand, the game is half way won.
The question is, where do we find a Bear? You might be lucky enough to have one of your own in the household but, if not, a teddy bear or other favourite toy could do the trick.
As Dr. Seuss once said, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go.”