Diane Bicknell, NHM Title I reading teacher and Response to
Intervention coach, welcomed everyone and facilitated the evening's
During her introduction to the evening, Ms. Bicknell
shared how she has seen that pets can help in the learning process.
She says that pets and learning go together.
"Simply having a pet in the classroom can help students learn new
information, can be used to improve discipline and teaches
responsibility," she said.
The school has several in-residence pets. Ms. Bicknell's rabbit
Romeo serves in "Reading to Romeo." He helps children to be
comfortable with reading aloud. There are two other plush, friendly
rabbits on the premises: Ms. Grace, who acts as the first-grade math
bunny for "Estimate with Grace," and Juliet, the fourth-grade
writing bunny for "Journals to Juliet."
There is also Mustang, the third-grade guinea pig, who recognizes
"responsibility in the classroom." And in second grade, Barry, "the
library fish," doesn't say much, keeps real quiet, but is astute and
Bicknell shared that studies show the presence of an animal has
been found to lower blood pressure, lower anxiety, motivate and
"You can improve learning by incorporating rabbits, guinea pigs
and fish into your daily routine," she says.
One program, "Reading to a Dog," has raised reading scores. In
2005, the University of Chicago Center for Literacy conducted a
reading study in which a control group improved nine words per
minute and the Reading to a Dog group improved 24 words per minute.
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"Dogs are good listeners," Bicknell said. She encouraged everyone
to read to a dog. She has seen it draw the shyest reader to read
aloud. And, besides, the dog likes it, too, she said.
There are several reasons this works, she says: "Pets don't laugh
or criticize. Pets don't judge. They listen attentively. And they
allow children to proceed at their own pace."
Attendance at the event was so good that the first-year
superintendent, Mr. Todd Dugan, had a little stage fright when it
came time for his book reading. He fixed two problems at once by
inviting younger children to come sit up closer around him. Sitting
on the floor surrounded by children brought him comfort and opened
more chairs for adults to sit. Then, to the delight of the children,
and apologies to any pork farmers present, he read a charming tale
As a member of the Humane Society of Logan County and supporter
of Pets in the
Classroom, Bicknell invited the Humane Society of Logan County
to bring a few of their favorite charges for the evening. Ellen
Burbage, the HSLC president, and another volunteer brought several
wonderful dogs and told a couple of adoption stories that the
In addition to the chance for classmates, friends, parents and
teachers to visit, there was also opportunity to pet the visiting
The evening was capped by a book fair, coloring, a musical chairs
game and other fun activities in the classrooms, drawings for free
books, and refreshments.
[By JAN YOUNGQUIST]