Gopher and I went on are first R.E.A.D. visit, this is a program, where kids can come and read to the dogs and has been proven to sharpen reading skills. I learned two things on this visit. First is that although Gopher is amazingly intuitive on a therapy visit, he has some work to do to be a great R.E.A.D. dog, but that will come later.
The other thing I learned about was my false perception of what I would witness on our visit. We signed up for a library that I knew was densely populated, has a higher population of impoverished persons,a slightly higher crime rate than other neighborhoods, and an adult population that if was able to find work they are often overworked and underpaid. My false perception was not based on individual ethnicity or race, but rather on the socioeconomic status of the neighborhood as a whole.Given the current climate in America, it is typically the poorest among us who are left behind. I went into this session with the thought these kids will need us most, through no fault of their own, they have had less educational opportunities due to overcrowded classrooms, allocation of educational funding that often overlook these areas, and a lower property tax base to support public education.
What happened was quite the opposite. The kids who came to read to Gopher varied from good to exceptional, including a four year old who read a picture book in its entirety. Not only did this little boy read the words, but he understood what he was reading when I asked comprehension type questions. For example he read "Boomer's Big Surprise", and I asked, "Gopher is a little confused, what was Boomer's surprise?" He quickly answered, "A new brother I have a new brother I didn't like him at first. He's bigger now and I like him better."
It was amazing to see the kids I saw and how well they were thriving, not to say the publications of persons who look at society trends are false in their reporting of the need for educational improvement in impoverished regions. It is still needed and I feel strongly that it is the basic foundation of our mutual success as a nation to give all kids an equal opportunity to learn. It is just wonderful to see that my perception was wrong, and there are glimmers of hope for our future.