Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Humane Education

I am writing this today from the large, traffic-y city of Houston where I am fortunate enough to be attending the Texas Library Association’s (TLA) Annual Conference with a generous scholarship I won from TLA’s Public Libraries Division (PLD). My schedule is jam-packed with volunteer activities for PLD (in exchange for my scholarship) and various other programs relating to all things libraries. Considering it is my first ever library conference, I am truly geeking out on all of the exhibits, gadgets, and programs, and I am beyond excited to be in the presence of so many other librarians.

My first volunteer obligation of the day brought me to a program called It’s About the Animals: Humane Education in Libraries, where several panelists demonstrated various successful humane education programs in schools and libraries all with the common goal of promoting empathy toward animals. The programs typically involved pairing elementary age children learning to read with trained dogs. Yes, dogs. The children sit and read to the dogs and the dogs serve as non-judgmental, good-natured listeners. Children, particularly children with reading difficulties, seem to benefit quite a bit from these programs as they are allowed an opportunity to practice reading in front of an impartial, loving companion allowing them to gain self-confidence. Because most children have a natural affinity for animals, they tend to love it s much as the animals do. Check out this video about the program, referred to as the READ (Reading Assistance Education Dogs) program:

There was also a good discussion of building humane collections in libraries. Peg Kehret, a children’s author, discussed some of her books and their emphasis on responsible pet ownership and a general empathy for animals. She also discussed a number of service projects she has initiated in schools where students choose an animal-related charity organization to raise money and/or other resources for. Kehret brought up the fact that often times perpetrators of violent crimes do not have empathy for other human beings. Building empathy for animals through books and service projects, Kehret suggests, can be a step toward building empathy for humans, thus serving as a preventative to violent crime. Granted, Kehret admits, widespread empathy for animals is probably not going to rid the world of violent crime, but it’s a start.

Not only does the library have ample children’s books that promote humanity to animals (such as Kehret’s), we also have a host of databases you can use to read more about dogs being used to promote reading as well as more about the use of animals to educate young people. Try a search for “reading and dogs” and/or “children and animals” to view articles from popular magazines, newspapers, and journals on the topic (this requires an Austin Public Library card if you are accessing the databases from home). Now I’m off to the infamous Book Cart Drill Team Challenge to watch one of the silliest, yet most entertaining competitions around (check out APL’s award winning team here).

Academic Search Complete

Charity Navigator: Animals
* A good way to locate local animal-related charities to partner with for service projects.

MasterFILE Premier

Peg Kehret’s Books at APL

Peg Kehret’s Website

Reading Assistance Education Dogs (READ)

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