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Monday, 15 June 2015

Librarian's Shelf: Canines and Cooking Meet Reading

It can be difficult to find the right strategy to help struggling readers, especially one that can be easily applied at home. Two programs initiated by libraries have taken unusual approaches to supporting literacy skill development and can be easily applied at home.

Inspired by an American program called Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ), Story Dogs offers children short one-on-one sessions where they read aloud to a dog. When reading to the dog, struggling readers become the ones in control, which lets them relax and lose the fear that their reading skills are being judged. Consequently, reading confidence increases.

There are many variations of this program around the world, including Reading Paws and Listening Dogs. If you have your own dog, they could be the perfect reading partner for your child. If you don't have a one, a friend, relative or neighbour might have a willing canine friend.

Another approach to improving reading skills is through cooking. Last year, the Free Library of Philadelphia launched its Culinary Literacy Centre, which features a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen, and works with many community partners. The Centre's stated mission is to teach literacy skills through cooking as well as explore culinary literacy (nutrition, disease prevention, healthy lifestyles, budgeting etc).

The cooking experience requires participants to put reading skills into practice in order to follow recipes, and use maths skills to measure ingredients. Problem solving is important for working out how to adapt recipes to make different quantities, too.

Trying this approach at home means you can also incorporate writing a shopping list and menu into the activity: yet another way to practice reading and writing.

Try reading to dogs or making a favourite meal and see how it motivates young readers in your family.

Sarah Steed is our Consultant Librarian and reviewer. A former Children's and Young Adult Librarian, she has more than 18 years' experience working in public libraries. Sarah comes from a family of readers and has shelves full to bursting with books. 

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