Tango listens intently, sometimes interrupting with a quick kiss, as the reader deliberately pronounces her words. Sometimes he's so relaxed he sleeps, other times he's on his back, legs reaching toward the ceiling, begging for a tummy rub.
We visit a local elementary school once a week and spend 20 minutes each with three readers who have been chosen to participate in the R.E.A.D. program.
We're on our third week and finally the kids are beginning to settle in and really enjoy the time with Tango.
The first week or two, the kids are shy. They read haltingly, sometimes embarrased if they don't know a word. Long about week three, they start noticing that Tango doesn't care if they struggle with pronounciation. He doesn't care if they have to ask for help. He doesn't care if they don't quite follow the punctuation.
Today, two of the kids who have been a little distant let down their guard. And I don't think they even noticed. Two of the kids sit on the floor with us, the other still prefers the more traditional setting: sitting at the desk in a chair. Whatever works for him works for Tango and I. We're flexible.
What a thrill it was for me to see a standoffish boy reach over as he was reading and gently feel Tango's fur. He never skipped a beat, never slowed down, never even looked over at Tango. He just kept right on reading. I don't know that he intentionally reached over. I think rather, his comfort level is reaching a level where he can read and do other things at the same time. Which is a real breakthrough if you ask me!
I didn't mention it, Tango didn't either. We just let the story unfold and let ourselves get lost in the story as the boy read it. These are kids who generally don't like to read because either they're not good at it, they have speech problems, or they're easily embarassed. With all three readers – kids who don't like to read – I'm the one telling them their time is up, they have to stop their story.
I'm not sure who gets the most out of it: Tango, the kids, or me.