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Education Station: Horses helping young students in Geauga County build reading confidence

Bainbridge Library and Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center collaborate to create monthly program that helps kids increase literacy by reading to horses.

BAINBRIDGE, Ohio — A library in Geauga County isn’t horsing around about children’s literacy! 

Every month, students read books to the horses at Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center - a creative way to horseplay, while creating confident readers. It’s part of a literacy program that is, let’s just say, a horse of a different color.

"During COVID, we got really creative. We thought since we have this beautiful open space, the door comes up, we have fresh air, this is a safe area. You can see the kids are more than 6-ft apart. It was perfect for families to get out and do something fun and educational, but also safe," said Aviva Vincent, Fieldstone’s Director of Program Quality.

Geauga County Public Library's Bainbridge branch's monthly Horse Tales program brings K thru 3rd grade students to the stables to read out loud to the 40 horses at Fieldstone Farm. How is reading to horses beneficial to a child, you may ask? Horses aren’t intimidating to read to.

"They’re non-judgmental, you know? When you’re reading to a person, sometimes you’re afraid that they’re judging you, but you know horses aren't going to," said Mary Balog of Bainbridge Library.

Horses are also loving, which creates a supportive reading environment.

"Sometimes they stick their head out and put it on my hand," said McKinley VanFossen, one of the children who read to Fieldstone's horses.

"The horses kinda look up at me. They’re kinda saying 'I like it! I like it! Read more! Read more!' said another young reader.

Nearly 200 students have read to the Fieldstone Farm horses - with several already showing improved reading levels - since Horse Tales galloped into their lives just a year ago.

"McKinley’s done great with school and reading and really picked up in the past year," said McKinley's mother Lindsay VanFossen. 

"They get to interact with an animal, and it’s not reading to me. They’re reading to something else, someone else, and they love it," said Heidi Mckenzie, mother of readers Jack & Elizabeth.

For more information on the Horse Tales program, visit Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center.

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