A New Twist!
By Skye Anderson, MS
A New Twist on a Great Program!
What do you see in your mind’s eye when someone mentions ‘Reading to Rover’? Do you picture an elementary school aged child with a book sitting on the floor with a special dog, reading an hour a week to that dog in the school library? Such wonderful programs do exist: one is called READ (Reading Education Assistance Dogs).
Or do you, as I do, picture an adult (like myself) under the covers with a couple of dogs on the bed, reading aloud to the dogs before turning out the light?
Do You Remember. . . ?
Remember how you used to s-l-o-w down at the end of the day (sometimes against your will and fighting the sandman) and savor being read to by Mom or Dad or your favorite babysitter (or Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird)? How even if you had read the same book many times, it was always different? How each time you heard it, wonderous new images appeared in your mind? How you hardly ever stayed awake long enough to hear the end of the story (but knew it anyway because it was your favorite)?
As you grew older, you read to yourself (sometimes under the covers by flashlight), or talked to your brother or sister in the next bed until one of you stopped answering.
Now, you can once again frequent the Children’s Section at your favorite library or bookstore. You have permission to get the familiar The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy (1958) or the Biscuit Learns To Read books or the Carl The Lovely Rottweiler Babysitter or Clifford The Big Red Dog books. Or discover new ones.
Talk with the children’s librarian, a specialist. Scan the list of dog books scheduled for Story Time. Visit during Story Time! You can eavesdrop and stand just out of sight if you like. Act like you are doing research and take notes.
Check out a half dozen of these familiar old friends or make new ones. Nobody needs to know they are for you (and your dog). Perhaps you can say your grandchildren are coming to visit if you feel an explanation is necessary (It isn’t. Trust me).
The Beginnings of My Reading to Rover
I attend a couple of dog camps where we stay in a cabin or tent with other campers and our dogs. After a hard day of playing and swimming, we chat from our beds, perhaps over a glass of wine. One night, I pulled out a children’s book that I had snuck in my suitcase and tiptoed over to the dogs chewing on their goodnight antlers and stuffed kongs. I sat on the floor and began to softly read to the dogs.
Soon, the chatter in the cabin ceased and everyone listened. One by one, the lights went out and my cabinmates lay there in the dark, transported backward in time a few decades. The dogs also stopped masticating and stretched out. Of course, I was slow turning the pages because I had one hand on my own dog doing a gentle massage.
I finished the last page, turned out the light and went to my bed, followed by the silent pitter patter of my dog and others. They jumped up on their people’s bed and snuggled.
The next thing I knew, it was a bright sunshiny morning and we all woke up refreshed, stretching snugly in our sleeping bags and smiling to our dogs.
You can have this same feeling at home, simply by reading to your dog. Not necessarily every night, just every once in a while – but every night is fine, too. Perhaps on the 4th of July or Halloween or any night in between. Your dog will easily get used to the new routine, even if it is not every night. But, why not? There are a lot of good books out there! And sometimes, Rover can use some help settling down.
We know dogs and two-year-olds thrive on routine so, when you get out the books at night and climb into bed, you will be followed (or proceeded) by dogs who stretch out, looking at you, then closing their eyes and just listening to you, then, perhaps, snoring gently, totally relaxed.
Ah, the sound of your voice, rhythmically voicing the words and phrases and sentences. At first, using good acting techniques of voice variation, then softly intoning.
Your dogs love the sound of your voice. They live for it. This will be a gift to them, the last of this day. Sweet dreams to puppies of all ages!
PS – I used my poetic license in this blog.
My favorite read-along books at night include -
The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy (1958 by Jane Thayer),
I Didn’t Do It and Once I Ate a Pie (2000 by MacLachlan and Charest),
“Let’s Get a Pup,” Said Kate, and “The Trouble with Dogs. . . “ Said Dad (2001 and 2007 by Bob Graham), and
Scooter in the Outside (2010 by Anne Bowen).
Read More About It (some real Reading to Rover programs!)
Tail Waggin’ Tutors: http://www.tdidog.org/OurPrograms.aspx?Page=Children+Reading+to+Dogs
Reading with Rover: http://www.tdidog.org/OurPrograms.aspx?Page=Children+Reading+to+Dogs
ABC News reports on a study: http://abcnews.go.com/WN/study-dogs-children-learn-read/story?id=11428770#.Uci-KxzNqlc
(This blog first appeared on ColumbiaPatch.com on 24 June 2013.)