Cathy Roemer-Garrison is always looking out for innovative ways to teach. She’s an English as a Second Language instructor at Moss Middle School in Warren County.
"I came across on the Internet something about children reading to shelter animals, and that the research showed it was successful at improving reading fluency and building self-esteem, which is a perfect fit for my ELL kids," explained Roemer-Garrison.
She took the idea to Principal David Nole, who admits he was skeptical at first.
"I thought, 'How's that going to improve what we're doing?' The more I listened the more I realized she was going about the heart of the reader, and that's just developing the love to read," Nole said.
And so it began. An initiative called Paw Pals: Literacy with Love. Every Wednesday, Roemer-Garrison visits the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society with a group of ELL students, or English Language Learners. Most are from war-torn countries, but at the shelter, those memories are overcome with smiles and laughter.
On this visit, a shelter employee brings out eight-week-old long-haired Chihuahuas.
Seventh graders Graciella Ventura of El Salvador, and Soe Meh and Bway Baw both of Thailand, sit in a circle, each holding a puppy and a book. Storytime is about to begin. Ventura has a wide grin as one of the puppies licks her face.
Studies suggest reading to children early in their development enhances their vocabulary, helps them identify letters and become better readers. Yet, less than half of U.S. children are read to on a daily basis.
To counteract that problem, reading is being doctor-prescribed in certain parts of the commonwealth, like Muhlenberg County.
Dr. Billie Galyen sees about 6,000 kids a year at her pediatric clinic in Greenville.
Five-year-old Brady and three-year-old Noah are there for check-ups. Every child six months to five years old leaves the office with a new book to take home and a prescription to read.
Kentucky's First Lady says new technology is offering young people new ways to access reading materials. Jane Beshear kicked off the 2013 Literacy Celebration Week Monday at WKU by speaking to an education class about the impact of reading on college readiness.
Mrs. Beshear says it doesn't matter if young people read books the old-fashioned way, or if they use an mobile electronic reader.
"I don't care how they read, as long as they read. We're in the technology age, so that's as engaging as anything. So if that's what it takes to get them involved, then I'm all for it."
After her visit to WKU, the Kentucky First Lady then toured the Housing Authority of Bowling Green to talk about how literacy growth can be incorporated into after-school programs.