This raises the question of how can we tap into this powerful, near-obsession with animals to help make a better world? If kids could just read about something they love, perhaps they would love to read. My premise, if it's not obvious yet, is that "something" is animals -- and make that real animals while your at it! The evidence is very clear -- the more words a kid reads the better their academic performance will be. Its that simple It's a slight twist on Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule.
We know that the top 10% of students read 1.8 million words a year (5,000 words or roughly 20 pages a day), while the bottom 10% read only 8,000 words a year (less than a page or 250 words a day.) (Cunningham & Stanovich, 2001.)
So getting them to read more might be as simple as serving up stories -- and lots of them -- all shapes, styles and sizes about the animals they love.
We know if you want to teach kids how to sneeze properly (i.e. into their elbow) just enlist Elmo to show them how to do it; they will listen and change their behavior. We trust Elmo. He's credible. Try to name one politician today that is credible who anyone in their right mind would listen to. Putting words into the mouths of others we trust is an age-old technique dating back to the times of the Talmud.