Reading out loud can be scary for some kids.
But put a hulking animal in front of them, and it gets a bit easier.
About 40 Grade 1 and 2 students from Delwood School in northeast Edmonton practised their literacy skills in front of horses on Friday.
The attentive listeners make for a great audience, said Jolyne Nugent, who teaches a Grade 1-2 split class.
“There are a lot of students who have a hard time reading. They don’t want to make mistakes and so we really emphasize that the horses don’t know. They just like to be read to,” Nugent said.
“There’s less judgment, less stress.”
The field trip was part of the Arabian Horse Reading Literacy Project, which is in its 11th year.
Former teacher Gary Millar owns the farm just east of Fort Saskatchewan where the program takes place.
“It became very apparent to me that the way kids and people react to the horses — and the horses to them — that there were some educational possibilities that we could look at,” he said. “One of them is just that non-judgmental, trusting partnership.”
Thousands of Alberta students have tried equine assisted learning at the farm, Millar said. He has seen plenty of kids come out of their shells with the help of the horses.
Porter Benson, 7, said sometimes he gets nervous to read in front of people. But reading in front of a horse? No problem.
“I was excited,” he said. “Because it was fun.”
Porter said he thinks the horse understood the story he read.
“I like to read and I like to play with the horses and I like to pet dogs,” Porter said.
Leanna Tait, 7, has never been so close to a horse.
“I like reading to horses because the horses feel calm when you read to them,” she said.
Nugent said the horses help get kids excited about reading. Her students practised for Friday’s big event by reading to a horse poster on their classroom wall.
“Sometimes we have kids that just aren’t interested and they don’t want to be reading. And this kind of gives them that reason to start reading out loud and building their confidence,” she said.
“They know when they’re below the other kids in the class. And this kind of gives them a little break from that and they get to feel successful too.”
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