Equine Program Encourages Elementary School Students to Read

Although they aren't literate, 14 horses are now involved in teaching reading to the 360 students at Jefferson Elementary School in Farmington, Mo. 

The project, devised by Sheryl Robinson, the school's principal, and local horse enthusiast Kathryn Lewis, brings equine ambassadors to the school. Each of the first to fourth grade classes "adopts" a particular horse. The students listen to volunteer handlers, who explain simple facts about horse care.

The program, funded by local sponsors, provides each student with a grade-appropriate nonfiction book to read and master. Each child's progress is measured by a horse, moving along a course. After the entire class masters their book, the horse returns for a special visit where students pet "their" horse and share treats.

Each child also receives free copies of an equine magazine and a second book (this time fiction from The Black Stallion series) to read.

When both books are completed, the school will take a field trip to a local boarding and training facility for a full horse day, filled with demonstrations of riding, farriery, and veterinary work.

Showing its commitment to the project, Jefferson Elementary changed the school's mascot from the Jaguar to the Black Stallion.

"Anytime a child can be introduced to something out of the norm, it engages their brain," said Tony Lewis, Kathryn's husband and volunteer horse handler for the project.

 "This opens little people's minds to new things," he added.

About the Author

Marsha Hayes

Marsha Hayes has been covering endurance, trail, and other equine topics since 2005. She believes every horse has a story.

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