What can improve education in this country and beyond? Expensive commercial literacy materials that claim to do the trick? Or maybe good teachers who are true experts and can make their own decisions based on responsive teaching? As a college professor and researcher, I can definitely tell the latter is the answer. But beyond that, there are some literacy resources that come from therapy dog teams and teachers collaborating together, an area that is not utilized yet because it is novel. When truly dedicated expert teachers team up with truly dedicated therapy dog teams, real miracles can really happened in the classroom and my mission is to begin to develop such practices.
Some time ago I described the situation when we were going to take a break from our literacy activities and do just do a regular dog therapy visit, but something incredible happened. Some children asked us if we could continue visualizations in the classroom.
Last week and this week we did something else. Because children learned about biographies, I used this opportunity to talk about biography, autobiography, and memoir, based on my book, From Unruly to Therapy Dog, that essentially is a memoir. The discussion I had with children led to some interesting ideas. For instance, we came to the conclusion that sometimes it’s not so easy to just distinguish between a memoir or biography. Children understood why my book is a memoir, but at the same time, they also thought it could be a biography about my dog.
This week, we explored ideas for children’s own autobiographies and this session was absolutely amazing. Children came up with their own illustration ideas for the book cover as well as the titles. Some autobiography ideas were mostly about children’s life with their families. Some other ideas were more than that because children wanted to write about how they learned a certain skill or acquired a certain hobby overtime. Some children even had ideas for several autobiographies. I could just sense the excitement in the air during that time.
When I debriefed with the teacher, I heard something amazing. One of the children, who is very shy, asked her if she could write her own autobiography. What a great breakthrough! These children are truly becoming motivated to become writers, to write their own biographies, just to keep up with Carmel and my own book publishing. Also, the teacher told me that one child even brought an example of autobiography that was done in the previous year.
This is one of the many ways I hope to inspire children in the Carmel’s Therapy Dog App. Children can write stories with dog characters or even with Carmel as a character. Since Carmel and I can only be at one place at a time, we published the app as a way to allow children to interact with Carmel and get creative. The app can also be used as a tool by teachers who want to incorporate writing and creativity into their classroom – a way to inspire stories and creativity in children in a manner similar to the way Carmel inspires children in the classroom. If you are a parent or a teacher, or know a child you believe could benefit from the app in this way, feel free to check it out at the link below and come write with us!