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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

School Is Going To The Dogs

Well, the school is going to the dogs.

That's not a problem - or a bone of contention! If you paws after reading the opening line of this Blog entry you will see that this is no tail, nor am I barking up the wrong tree on this issue. You'll have to excuse the ruff puns - superintendents aren't generally known for their sense of humor, and I am no exception.

Our school librarian has coordinated weekly visits by Maggie, a 170 pound Mastiff. Maggie is a certified therapy dog. First grade learners enjoy having a non-judgemental and very appreciate audience when they read aloud, and Maggie appears to be entertained by their efforts. Our district website ( features an interesting news article on the arrangement, complete with digital images of Maggie and several young readers. In addition, the accompanying text presents several different benefits accrued by children through this unique experience. It's well worth reading if you haven't done so already.

In real estate, realtors have a saying that the three most important features in selling a property are: location, location, and location. Similarly, the three most prominent components of success in the early elementary grades may be considered: reading, reading, and reading. The content may not be as important as the act itself, whether it's the back of a cereal box, a comic book, or a non-fiction text. Reading, particularly when pursuing an area of interest, goes a long way toward improving reading skills and expanding vocabulary.

Certainly, having a patient and supportive audience can help the beginning reader build confidence by receiving timely and appropriate feedback. In addition to Magge the Mastiff, we are also fortunate to have community members who volunteer to visit the school and read to children in the lower grades, and high school learners who drop by classrooms and share their time with developing readers.

Our library has come alive this year and boasts a variety of special activities and learning experiences. The interactive white-board, or Smartboard, has been effectively employed as a technological tool that leverages successful instructional opportunities. The diversity of media sources - print, film, digital, and electronic have all contributed to an environment that promotes learning. The librarian has served as a critical resource to staff members. Her expertise has assisted with integrating curricula and producing synergy within visiting groups of learners. The value of a librarian is such that the district would realize a great gain by eventually extending the service to full time for the 330 learners in the school. The declining state aid to schools currently represents the obstacle to meeting this goal.

If my life was represented in a single graphic, it would be an image of a little boy pursuing his goals by climbing up stairs made of stacks of books. The ability to interpret text and convert letters to words and words to sentences and sentences to paragraphs and paragraphs to pages - all added up to useful information and ideas that fed my appetite for learning. Reading empowered me. The more I read, the more I was able to create the hope and grow the dreams which allowed me to escape the grips of poverty. Reading opened doors for me.

I encourage you to make the time to experience the satisfaction of helping an emerging reader somewhere ( a son/daughter, grandson/daughter, other relative, neighbor, church member,...) by simply listening to them interact with the text of an interesting book. I know you can find a child to offer your time and make a difference. You'll both realize a benefit and all it will cost you is time...

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