Monday, August 8, 2011

A Special, My Town Monday -- Tip Of The Hat To Some Local Heroes

Of all the gifts my mother bestowed upon me, I count the love of reading as the greatest.

I went out of my way to instill this same love in my boys, but as any parent knows wanting your child to do something is not anywhere close to the same thing as having them do it.

My oldest took off reading as soon as he learned how, but my youngest was reluctant. You see he hates to fail and expects to be perfect at everything he attempts so when he couldn't read every word he came across he simply refused to read. Especially out loud, for he feared he would come to a word he didn't know and would look dumb. Of course we didn't figure all of this out at the snap of a finger. He would tell us he couldn't read and we would work with him, but he'd resist and I was beginning to think her perhaps had a learning disability.

And then an event changed everything.

Members from The Crown of Texas Arabian Horse Club here in Amarillo, Texas brought the Black Stallion Literacy Foundation  to my son's school.

The Black Stallion Literacy Foundation currently with programs in nine states, motivates 1st and 4th grade children to become better readers through the gift of books and interaction with horses.  

The first grade program begins with children receiving the hardcover book Little Black, a Pony during a visit at school from the book's characters, Little Black and Big Red. The program completes with a field trip to the Will Rogers Range Riders Arena for a special hands-on learning experience which includes learning stations and a second book, Little Black Goes to the Circus. The learning stations, about horses and horse care, reinforce vocabulary from the book and most importantly, each child has an opportunity to read their favorite page of Little Black, a Pony, to a horse. 

For some kids this program is about the opportunity to own a book of their own. For my son it was the chance to read OUT LOUD to something that couldn't and wouldn't criticize, laugh, snicker, or think him stupid if he struggled over a word. He came home from the first event absolutely beaming. He read that first book and told us all about how great his day was. When he received his second book  and actually read to that horse he describes it as the best day of his life. No I am not exaggerating or using hyperbole here, but keep in mind, six-year-olds are free with their praise and exuberance.

What is undeniable, however, is that this program turned him from a reluctance almost closet reader into a bold confidant one. He owned dozens of books already and has acquired hundreds more in the nearly two years since, but his Little Black books are still cherished by both he and myself for I love them for giving him the gift of a love of books. I wish i could scan in the picture they took of my son reading to the horse but it is taped inside his book and I fear taking it out to scan it would damage the photo.

The local group hopes to add a fourth grade program in the near future, but for now they are struggling to gather the funds to continue bringing it to as many 1st grade entry level readers as possible. 
In the Amarillo area, our BSLF experience with first graders as shown us that the program promotes success by motivating children to read books. Many of the children who were significantly behind at the beginning of our program became avid readers, ready to advance with their class to the next grade level.

In the second program, fourth grade children are given a copy of Walter Farley’s timeless classic The Black Stallion.  It has been found that these children are truly motivated to read such a wonderful book. At the end of the fourth grade curriculum the students are treated to the “Arabian Nights Show” starring the Black Stallion that will travel from Florida to Amarillo for these successful readers.

Last year six schools participated in the BSLF first grade program. We are looking forward to increasing our number of first grade schools and including fourth graders in the future.Your contribution can make it possible for us continue to touch the lives of Amarillo area students. This is our fourth year bringing the program to Amarillo area first graders and we assure your donation will make a significant difference in the lives of these children.
The first grade program requires $10.00 per student and a donation of $300.00 will allow an entire class to participate. The BSLF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, your donation is 100% tax deductable.

Donate to our local area Black Stallion Literacy Foundation through the Crown of Texas Arabian Horse Club

If you have more questions about the program or their needs visit their website or to provide a cash donation to help spread the program you can do so via PayPal using the club's email address


Old Kitty said...

What a great fun way to help kids to read and be confident with their reading! There's a similar programmer here in the UK, except the kids interact with dogs. They have a special dog they read to and look after and it's proven a great success!

Good luck with your fundraising! Take care

Charles Gramlich said...

Oh that is very cool. I have that book. I only read it long, long after I'd read most of the others in the series. Didn't even know it existed as a kid. That whole Black stallion series was great for me as a kid.

Deanna said...

What a wonderful program. Appreciation and love of reading is one of the greatest gifts that anyone can give to a child. I'm pretty sure my grandkids roll their eyes behind my back because to this day gifts always include some sort of book. My 14 yr old grandson, especially loves reading and I secretly take the credit because of the many hours we shared reading and talking about books.

Thanks for sharing this great story and information about this program.

Mary Witzl said...

It's interesting what will suddenly capture a children's imagination and turn them into readers. I was never into horses, so suspect I'd have been immune to books about stallions, but then again, I wasn't into dogs -- until Savage Sam and Old Yeller reeled me right in and made me dog-friendly. It's great your son found this group and had a similar conversion!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Hopefully this next generation will be better readers than their parents.

Barrie said...

I love the sounds of this program! I really think my Child #4 (who is horse crazy, but not book crazy) would benefit from it.

the walking man said...

I'll give praise to the program and the cause but our own governor just did to our education system what yours did ...he used their money to balance his budget on so I expect my property taxes which are not deductible are going to need the $$ as much as my two boys will need the free tutoring I give them in reading.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

What a great idea! All kids love horse even here in the Big Apple.

Wendy said...

What a fantastic program! I've also read about programs for kids with autism using horses. There's just something about animals. So glad your little guy had such success with his reading!

Jennette Marie Powell said...

What a wonderful program! I loooooooved the Black Stallion books when I was in elementary school. My daughter never could get into them, which made me sad. So good to see a new, younger generation gaining a love of reading through these books!

Jenn Jilks said...

What a great post. We do this kind of thing in Canada, too!
Happy reading, Big Guy!

Unknown said...

That is awesome. I'm a high school librarian and am constantly on the lookout for 'what will make them read.' Of course my kids come to me as much more reluctant, given their age. The program sounds wonderful but the story of your son turning into a voracious reader made my heart pitter patter!