I was thrilled and honored to be invited to another exciting Adoption Ceremony at Bubbling Wells Elementary School, one of three California Gold Ribbon Schools in Palm Springs Unified School District that are participating in How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom. After leading the students in their Love Pledge for their plush pups, another 133 students became official “pet parents” and got to take home their pups to become part of their forever families. And the best part? Well, aside from the beaming faces of the graduates, it was the wonderful comments by the principal, Omar Tinoco, who explained how this program has positively impacted student reading engagement and achievement. Congratulations on all of your hard work, Bobcats!
Ok, so I’ve never had children, but I’ll never forget one of my best friends saying to me once that when you have a child, it’s like your heart is suddenly walking around out there in the big world, and you just don’t know what’s going to happen – how your child will be received, treated, liked, or loved. You spend years of your life investing time and nurture in that child, hoping and praying that everything will be ok, that they won’t experience rejection or hurt.
Being an entrepreneur is kind of like that. You create something from your heart, and then you put your heart out there and then – you just don’t know what’s going to happen – how your idea will be received, treated, liked, or loved. You spend years of your life investing time and nurture in that idea, hoping and praying that everything will be ok, and that you won’t experience rejection or hurt.
The differences, of course, are obvious. But much of the time you really don’t know, as a business owner, how your ideas and offerings will be accepted in the world. But this morning – this morning was one of those rare moments when I felt like it’s all been worth it. When the careful nurturing, the hours and hours and hours of focused attention and love I’ve poured into my offering, came back to me in spades. I imagine it’s the business equivalent of seeing your child get nominated for “Student of the Year.” That moment when you think, “Oh thank God, some of it is finally paying off. I’m not a terrible parent after all!”
This morning, Sunny Sands Elementary School held their 2nd Grade Reading Celebration and Adoption Ceremony as the culmination of the program I crafted from my heart and have loved from it’s beginning: “How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom.” Over 130 children and a sprinkling of parents streamed into the large room, the children clutching the little plush dogs they have named and “fostered” over the past ten weeks, holding them close to their hearts, and proudly displaying their bright, yellow Adoption Certificates. I watched from a distance, taking it all in, until one of them recognized me.
“Hey! It’s the lady from the videos!” said one little boy. “Yeah! It’s the dog lady!” said another (no, that did not insult me in the least, if you are wondering), “Hey everybody look, it’s Dr. Lori!”
One hundred heads turned, and then chaos broke loose. Everybody needed my attention, instantly. One young boy with dark, serious eyes held his dog up to me and said, “Dr. Lori, I give my dog tons of respect. On the way here, I used my Adoption Certificate to keep him out of the sun because it’s too hot for him.” Another boy rocked two dogs in his arms. “I’m babysitting for my friend,” he explained quietly. And then voices came from everywhere, “We LOVE your videos! Thank you for your videos!”
I was almost in tears from this outpouring of gratitude when I got up on the stage to lead their Love Pledge – a right of passage before these students would earn the privilege of taking these dogs home with them to “adopt” and become a part of their forever families. I asked the students to place one hand on their heart, and to please repeat after me:
By accepting this certificate, I promise to always be kind to my dog. I promise to love my dog no matter what. I promise to never pull my dog’s tail or be mean in any way. I promise to tell my dog these things: I am so proud of you. You are so special.You are so smart, and I love you – just as you are.
After the ceremony, I planned to wave to the students to say good-bye. But instead, I received over fifty hugs from thrilled, smiling new “pet parents” as they broke away from their teachers to embrace me in a rush of gratitude. I wish I could show you some of their beautiful, beaming faces.
It was one of those moments when it seemed like everyone present could feel the positive energy in the room, the elevated sense that this is what matters, that this is a slice of the good in the world, and what Aristotle must have had in mind when he wrote, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
There are moments, as an entrepreneur, when it feels like I just want to give up. When it feels like the mountain is just too big to climb, the goal is just too big, when I wonder if it’s all worth it, and when I wonder if any of this is making a difference at all. Today, these students reminded me that it absolutely is worth it, and that we really are making an incredible difference in this world, one heart and mind at a time.
Thank you, Sunny Sands teachers, for your amazing work with these children in literacy and in compassion for animals. I am deeply, deeply grateful for your time, for your commitment, and for your invitation to attend today and remind me of what really matters. You are the real reason for this program’s success, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.
One of my favorite things about this time of the year is feeling inspired to create and distill my big goals for the next twelve months. I used to reserve a quiet evening each January to snuggle up by the fire with my two little pups and a hot mug of tea so I could dream and write about what I wanted the next year to look and feel like. It was satisfying, but somewhere along the way, I would lose track of my goals and begin to take them less seriously. Often, I even lost that piece of paper, too. 🙂
Then, about five years ago, I learned the art of creating vision boards from my mentor Jack Canfield, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series and The Success Principles. Jack attributes much of his success, both personally and professionally, to the regular practice of creating and using vision boards in his daily life. Since learning to create vision boards, my life has changed in significant ways. I wouldn’t call vision boards “magic,” but I would attribute much of my success directly to the daily, focused attention to and visualization of what I really, really want from this incredible life.
Because of this, I began teaching younger students how to create vision boards of their own. I’ve worked with children as young as seven years old to teach them to articulate what it is their big goals and dreams are for their lives, and it’s always such a heart-warming and exciting experience to learn that what really matters to a lot of children isn’t what we think it might be. I invite you to challenge yourself this year to give your students the tools and strategies they need to learn to believe in themselves, to dream big, and to create the life of their dreams through vision boards. Just watch my video below to learn how!
Have you ever had a conversation with kids about who their favorite super heroes are, and what their superhero’s special powers are? Well Dex isn’t just any superhero – he wasn’t born with special powers. He was an adorable little weiner dog who the author, Caralyn Buehner, describes as looking “like a plump sausage sitting on four little meatballs.” Don’t you already just love this book?
Dex was a dog who didn’t exactly stand out in a crowd. He was slow in games and rarely got noticed by his friends, unless they were making fun of him. But Dex had a dream, and not just any dream. He dreamed he would become a real, live superhero! One day, he decided he wasn’t going to just dream about it – he was actually going to become one. So he took action – he began researching comic books and watching super hero movies. He started training harder and harder, and was thrilled when his little sausage body began to actually develop muscles.
Then the day came when his very own custom super-hero costume arrived on his doorstep. Dex, with the heart of a hero, began helping other little dogs who needed a hand. His friends continued to make fun of him, but he didn’t care. He knew that what he was doing was important and good and kind and right, and his heart had never felt so full. Finally, the day came when one of his friends (who had teased him all along), needed his help. And Dex, because he truly was a hero, bravely saves his friend in danger. In the end, Dex becomes a model for his friend who decides that maybe he might like to become a super hero, too.
This book will inspire children to consider what their own super hero gift might be to the world, and to imagine, if their own pet had a special super hero power, what that power might be. This story teaches children that their dreams can become a reality, no matter how big or impossible they might seem, if they only believe in themselves and gather the courage to take action in small steps every day towards their dreams.
To order your own copy of Dex, The Heart of a Hero on Amazon, just click here.
To learn more about Caralyn Buehner’s great work (and Mark Buehner’s wonderful illustrations), please visit their website by clicking here.
In addition to teaching children fun and effective reading skills to help them become more confident, stronger readers, students who participate in How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed In the Classroom also learn important skills for success not only in learning, but in life. I (Dr. Lori) was trained by Jack Canfield, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and The Success Principles. As part of this life-changing, year-long training, I recognized the necessity of bringing these principles into children’s lives in an age-appropriate way, thereby giving young students the tools they need and a roadmap for success as early as possible.
Therefore, as part of this program, the children are asked to “think big” and to deeply consider what their reading goal is by the end of the program. Asking children to set a goal and then take one small step every single day towards reaching their goal helps students learn to break down a big dream into bite-sized pieces that can feel much more manageable. Just like looking up a large staircase and wondering how they are ever going to make it to the top, the children are reminded to record how many new words they have learned each week as a way of tracking their own progress on their way to reaching a much larger goal. They learn that each effort, each day, brings them one step closer to meeting their goal, no matter how big it may seem at the beginning!
Reading Comprehension with Stuffed Animal Buddies and Pets of All Kinds!
If you have a dog or another pet at home, you can involve him or her in reading activities with your child in fun and creative ways to help improve your child’s comprehension, or understanding of what they are reading. One way you can do this is by teaching your child to do a “picture walk” with your pet. Begin by explaining to your child that reading is very, very difficult for animals. In contrast, children are so smart, and they are so good at this that sometimes they need to spend some extra time to help their pets to understand the story.
Before you begin reading with your child, place sticky notes every three pages or so in the book to serve as a “marker” to pause and do a picture walk with your child. As your child reads aloud to your dog or stuffed animal, each time you come to a sticky note say to your child, “Do you think you can re-tell or review for (your pet’s name) what has happened in the story so far, using your own words?” Positioning the book so the pet can “see” the pictures, speaking slowly and clearly, and being gentle and loving are all latent lessons you can teach to help build empathy and compassion in your child. What a fun way to help children to not only become stronger readers, but to learn the value and skill in being patient and kind teachers to others – the best way to learn!