Paws-itive Reading Progress: Reading Therapy Dogs and How They Help

Red Apple Reading - Reading therapy dogs and how they help

Every child is different, and developing each individual’s reading ability needs a combination of approaches. There are probably many things you’ve already tried – so how about something you may not have heard of? Reading to therapy dogs is gaining popularity as a way to develop reading ability in children, as well as improve their confidence and social skills.

Studies of therapy dogs in medical settings have proven that interaction with a friendly canine helps to lower blood pressure and stress hormones. This demonstrates that they create a calm and relaxed environment. Dogs can encourage children to read by being non-judgmental and unconditionally supportive. They do not appear to be superior, and do not correct the child as an adult might. The focus of the session becomes the dog, rather than the child, which is valuable for those with self-esteem issues or social anxieties.

Positive Outcomes
Reading therapy dog sessions allow your child to make new, happy associations with reading and speaking aloud. Many parents of children who have undertaken the programs report more motivation and excitement for reading even after the session has finished, as well as increased confidence and communication skills.

More detailed information can be found on the Particular Paws website.

Contributed by freelance writer Jocelyn Brown


How Dr. Seuss Can Help Your Early Reader

If you have a school age child, there’s a good chance he celebrated Read Across America last week at school. This yearly reading initiative also includes the observance of Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2. Beloved author, Theodor Seuss Geisel, was born in 1904 and wrote 44 children’s books in his lifetime. Most of us grew up reading these wacky tales and have at least a few Dr. Seuss books in our own home libraries for our children. Parents know how much fun these books are, but many don’t realize their value as early readers for their kids. So what makes Dr. Seuss books such a great choice for early readers?

We all love those wonderful rhymes that Dr. Seuss was such a master at creating. Did you know those simple rhyming texts are actually more than entertaining? Before a child learns to read, she must understand that words are made up of different sounds and the manipulation of these sounds creates words. Hearing rhymes helps our little ones develop an ear for words with similar sounds.

Appreciation for Poetry
An exposure to rhyming texts early in a child’s life may spark an interest in poetry. While there’s no guarantee that reading rhyming stories will develop an appreciation for poetry, it does stand to reason that there’s a better chance it will if they are regularly presented with the opportunity.

It can be challenging to get some kids interested in reading because they consider it tedious or too much like work. Dr. Seuss books are a great choice for reluctant emergent readers because they are anything but boring. The wild and wacky tales that unfold when children open a book by Dr. Seuss captures their imagination right away, helping them to stay engaged. Another perk of Seuss stories is their colorful and crazy illustrations!

Easily Committed to Memory
When my children were very young, I would read Dr. Seuss’s ABC book to them. After all these years I can still recall parts of that book, “Big A, little a. What begins with A? Aunt Annie’s Alligator, A A A”.  Children also easily recall these short rhythmic passages. Once committed to memory, children feel they know these stories and can “read” them for themselves while turning pages. This type of practicing instills a love of literacy at a young age.

Sight Words
Sight words are words that are used commonly throughout texts we read every day. You’ve probably practiced these words with your early elementary aged child during homework time. Many of Dr. Seuss’s books contain a prolific amount of sight words. The Cat in the Hat, for example, is full of common words that children need to readily recognize.

Nonsense Words
Dr. Seuss books are also full of funny, nonsense words. These made-up words will make your kid giggle as well as aid her reading development. Unlike sight words, nonsense words aren’t immediately recognizable and must be sounded out. This “sounding out” practice helps children learn how to put letters together to form words.

If you have an early reader in your home, then these books are (ahem…) just what the doctor ordered. Not only are they great reading tools, but they are also great fun! Take a copy off of your shelf today and enjoy a little wacky reading with your kiddo!


Fluency: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Fluency: What It Is and Why It's Important  |  Red Apple ReadingFluency can be broken down into 3 components: the ability to read a passage accurately (without having to stop and decode individual words), at a reasonable pace (not too fast or too slow), and with proper expression (paying attention to punctuation). Let’s explore the different facets of fluency and how you can help your child master each one. For convenience, we’ve listed individual interventions under each component, but you’ll quickly find that these activities are beneficial for all aspects of fluency!

It’s imperative for children to read accurately if they are going to have any real sense of what a passage is about.

  • Review Unfamiliar Words – You can help your child with this aspect of fluency by going over any new words with her before she reads the text. If she is reading a book about birds, for instance, you might introduce the word chickadee beforehand.
  • Repeated and Timed Readings – Another way you can help your little one improve her accuracy is with timed repeated readings. Simply set a timer for one minute. Let your kiddo read the same passage aloud to you several times, while keeping up with how many words she gets correct each time. Chances are you will see improvement with each reading!

Pace is another critical component of fluency. Reading should be performed at a reasonable rate.

  • Repeated and Timed Readings – Yep, the above timed reading activity will help your kid with pace as well! When children don’t have to stop and decode individual words, their pace naturally improves.
  • Record – One way you can assist your child with pace is by allowing her to record herself reading aloud (you’ll notice all these interventions involve reading aloud – it’s important!). Many times children don’t realize how slowly or quickly they are reading. When they go back and listen to themselves, they will get a better idea of whether they need to slow down or speed up.

Reading with expression involves paying attention to punctuation and the mood of the story. Reading with feeling makes the text more enjoyable and aids in comprehension.

  • Model by Reading Aloud – One of the ways kids learn to read with expression is by hearing someone else read with expression. This is one of a thousand reasons why parents should read aloud to their children. When we read a story to our kids they pick up on the nuances of our speech patterns and learn how expressive reading sounds.
  • Echo Reading – This intervention builds on the previous one. You will read a sentence or passage aloud using appropriate expression, then your kid will “echo read” the same passage (trying his best to sound like you).

As your child’s fluency improves she can begin reading more advanced texts and choosing titles that interest her rather than simple, decodable books. This will lead to a greater love of reading! Visit our Finding Fluency Pinterest board for more ideas on developing fluency.

Helping Your Struggling Reader


Helping Your Struggling Reader | Red Apple Reading


Some kids seem to be born readers. They pick up on the nuances of phonetics quickly and are reading independently on or before schedule. However, not all children find reading to be an easy skill to master – and that’s alright. Each child becomes proficient at reading at their own pace. The good news is, if your child struggles with reading, there are several things you can do to help him improve his skills.



Read Daily – Often, children who struggle with reading do not relish the task of dedicated daily reading time. However, it is important for your child to read every day. Sit down with your kiddo and work together to come up with a number of pages that they will read each day.

Find Interesting Material – Do everything you can to make reading appealing for your kid. If your child is interested in what she is reading, there’s a better chance she will stick with it.

Find Balanced Material – It can be challenging to find books that are easy enough not to frustrate your reader, yet don’t seem “babyish” in nature. Finding good material is worth the effort! Take a look at these high interest/low readability books from This Reading Mama.

Make Tasks Manageable – You may find it helpful to break up reading time into manageable chunks for your kid. For example, instead of having your child read the whole book, take turns reading with him. If you sense he is becoming frustrated, take a quick break and grab a snack. By managing daily reading wisely, you can cut down on aggravation and increase productivity.

Implement Oral Repetitive Reading – If your kiddo struggles with reading fluently, take time to listen to her read the same passage aloud to you several times. Usually, children improve with each reading. To see an example of this type of reading practice check out this video.

Prep for Success – Everyone wants to see their kid succeed. With a little prep beforehand, parents can ensure a more positive reading experience for their child. One way to prepare for reading is to go over potentially hard vocabulary words with your child in advance. Also, be sure your child is well rested and not hungry; a tired and hungry kid is not ready to work hard.

Provide Incentives – Who doesn’t enjoy being rewarded for a job well done? When your child has put forth significant effort to improve his reading, a little positive reinforcement is in order. Extra television time or a favorite treat can go a long way in providing the needed incentive to persevere in reading.

If reading is a struggle for your child, don’t panic! Begin today implementing some of the above strategies. It will be hard work for you and your child, but most good things require extra effort! If you suspect your child is facing a bigger issue (such as dyslexia, apraxia of speech, etc.) then contact your child’s teacher and ask for a formal evaluation.


Thankful for Reading

Thankful for ReadingWith the Thanksgiving season at hand, our thoughts naturally turn toward gratitude. No matter our current circumstances we all have something for which to be grateful. In fact, we often take our most precious gifts for granted. For instance, have you ever considered the advantages that being literate affords? Red Apple Reading would like to take time this holiday season to remind our friends what a privilege it is to read!

  • Reading Broadens Horizons – I’m an underfunded traveler, but that doesn’t mean I can’t experience new places and different cultures. I love to read books about people who live in places I’ll never see. My kids may never visit Afghanistan in person, but they can learn a lot about middle-eastern culture by reading Andrew Clements’ Extra Credit (a touching story about an American girl and Afghan boy who become pen pals).
  • Reading Enlarges Your Vocabulary – The exposure we receive to new words radically increases when we regularly read. Thus, reading is a great way to increase one’s vocabulary. So if you have an expansive vocabulary, chances are you have reading to thank!
  • Reading Increases Your Emotional Intelligence – Nothing quite puts you in someone else’s shoes the way reading does. Stories help us view situations from different perspectives. Learning to empathize with others allows us to see beyond ourselves and think big. When my teenager read The Outsiders in 9th grade, she not only experienced a great work of fiction, but she also learned how people from other socioeconomic backgrounds experience life.
  • Reading Improves Brain Function – In a study conducted at Emory University, researchers discovered that, “becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function”. Who doesn’t want a better brain? If you want to improve brain function in your kiddos and stay sharp as an adult, pick up a book!
  • Reading Develops Imagination – If you’ve ever bemoaned your child’s lack of creativity, perhaps you should try reading to her. While reading or listening to others read, kids are imagining what the setting and characters look like; they are picturing the plot as it unfolds in their heads. Simply put, reading can help ripen the imagination.
  • Reading Aids in Navigating Life – Perhaps the most important reason we should be thankful for the ability to read is the convenience it affords us as we navigate life. Imagine for a moment your typical day, but without the ability to read. How would you know if you received an urgent piece of mail or help your child with his homework? Reading greatly impacts our everyday life!

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to pause and take stock of the good gifts in our lives. Chances are you’ve probably never thought about incorporating reading into your inventory. When making your list of things to be thankful for this year, don’t forget to include the ability to read!