Building the Confidence to Read Aloud

Building the Confidence to Read Aloud

For many children with learning challenges like dyslexia, who are one- to three grade levels behind in reading, the idea of sharing a book aloud is fraught with anxiety. Finding the courage to overcome the fear of reading can be a battle.

“I don’t like reading because I’m not good at it,” says fifth grader Kaleah.

But not on Shadow Day.

At Sitton School in North Portland, the kids in Mandee Bish’s classroom have picked out their favorite books to share with a new friend—a black and white poodle named Molly, who is there to listen to their reading.

Educators say that dogs make great reading partners because they can gently nudge students to keep going, or strategically place a paw to offer support and enhance focus. Dogs also have a calming effect that can reduce anxiety, and their quiet presence boosts confidence, courage … and reading comprehension.

Indeed, Molly quietly lays on her blanket and sets her chin on the kids’ legs, closing her eyes to the soft sound of the students’ reading. No matter that their words are sometimes halting. No matter that they miss some words or mix up letters. Molly patiently listens, and the kids finish their books and forget for a moment their struggles with reading.

“That was so fun!” says Kaleah. “I can’t wait to read again!”

Shadow Day is an annual event to honor Shadow, a dog born on Valentine’s Day, who is the inspiration behind the nonprofit Shadow Project. The Shadow Project arranged for Molly’s visit in collaboration with Columbia River Pet Partners to celebrate its 15th anniversary in Portland Public schools, and the fourth year in the district’s innovative, collaborative Read Together initiative, which is focused on literacy in underserved schools.

“Year after year, two-thirds of Oregon children with disabilities miss the critical benchmark of third grade reading proficiency that predicts high school graduation,” says Shadow Project Founder and Executive Director Christy Scattarella. “If our community is truly committed to increasing graduation rates, we urgently need to address the overlooked one in eight children who learn differently. Providing students with learning disabilities access to the tools they need to achieve is critical.”

The Shadow Project began in two classrooms in Duniway School, becoming a 501(3) organization in 2003. Since then, Shadow has fostered success for more than 11,000 Portland children with learning challenges.

“I am so grateful to The Shadow Project for their vision and leadership in our schools,” says Bish. “They are integral to our program of serving students with more intensive learning and behavior support needs.”


Goal Setting for Courage

Goal Setting for Courage

A Duniway school value is courage, and seven-year-old Naomi has shown great strides this year, using The Shadow Project to set and achieve goals.

Sharing with the class, taking turns talking with a friend, reading out loud in front of a group, listening as others read, and raising your hand are all ways to show courage in second grade at Duniway.

Because Naomi has been identified as needing to work on her social skills, Learning Center Teacher Erica Warren and Classroom Teacher Julie Aquilizan use The Shadow Project’s innovative goal setting program to help Naomi set and achieve her goal of exhibiting courage.

With her eye on a bright pink squishy beanbag chair from the Shadow Store, Naomi steadily earned Shadow Bucks every time she completed a skill for her efforts on courage, as well as completing work in the Learning Center. It took her two months, but she persevered, saving $100 Shadow Bucks, for her special chair.

“It was so motivating,” said Erica. “We created concrete ways Naomi can be courageous and she’s exhibited many of those skills already. We are so proud of how hard she is working.”

The Shadow Project began in two Duniway classrooms. Now in its 15th year, Shadow has helped foster success for more than 11,000 children.


Dine at McMenamins Feb. 28 for Shadow Kids

Dine at McMenamins Feb. 28 for Shadow Kids

Mark your calendars!

Beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28, the McMenamins at N.E. 15th & Broadway will donate 50% of all food and beverage sales to The Shadow Project.

McMenamins selected Shadow Project for its monthly Friends and Family night, which benefits local charities. Grab your friends and family and help us raise money for our children with learning challenges. All sales that evening qualify, whether you stay for a drink, order take-out, or come in a group.

McMenamins is open until 11 p.m., and we highly recommend the tater tots. Hope to see you there!


Thank You for Supporting our Children

Thank You for Supporting our Children

Thanks to the generosity of our individual donors, we met our holiday fundraising goal of bringing more learning tools to students with challenges. A special shout out to our recent foundation and corporation donors, and year-end matching partner!

The Autzen Foundation * The Collins Foundation * H.W. Irwin and D.C.H. Irwin Foundation * James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation * Siletz Charitable Contribution Fund * OCF Joseph E. Weston Public Foundation * RE/MAX Equity Group Foundation * Juan Young Trust * Arlene Schnitzer

See our list of generous donors here.


Partnering with Schools for Inclusive Classrooms

Partnering with Schools for Inclusive Classrooms

To help instill calm and focus in children with learning challenges, The Shadow Project has provided more than 100 teachers in two school districts with sensory toolkits, and then trained them on introducing sensory tools in their classrooms.

Sensory tools are intended to build self-regulation, that is, helping children manage their behavior and thinking so they can listen, pay attention, and persevere through challenging or frustrating learning experiences. Nationally published research from Oregon State University found that at-risk children with stronger self-regulation skills score higher in reading than those with weaker regulation.

Shadow staff, in collaboration with occupational therapists, have trained more than 100 Portland area teachers on sensory tools for focus and calm in the classroom. The tool kits are a condensed version of the SuperSensory Literacy Spaces that Shadow has created for special education classrooms.

“These aren’t new tools,” says Jamie Lok, a behavioral classroom teacher at West Powellhurst Elementary in the David Douglas district. “But I now have a better understanding of why we need them. I love that I can teach students in my class how to use these tools, and that they will be available in other settings so they won’t look different to their peers. This is fantastic!”

Teachers received two-part trainings from The Shadow Project on introducing sensory tools into their classroom. Each teacher received a box of occupational therapist-approved handheld fidgets, a box of kinetic sand with tools, and an oversized comfortable chair.

Fifth Grade Woodmere Teacher Emily Kinney noticed that the tools are providing her students with better focus during silent reading. “All my kids used to sit quietly, but not all of them were reading,” she says. “Now, with the fidgets, I do notice an improvement in sustained focus, especially during reading and writing.”

In a 2017 evaluation of a sensory training pilot at Rosa Parks, 71% of teachers reported that their students who use sensory tools are less anxious; 50% reported students spend more time reading, and 62% noticed a reduction in disruptive classroom behavior.

“To introduce the tools, we talked about how a fidget is a toy if it is used the wrong way,” said Patrice Pierre, third grade teacher at Rosa Parks, who says 70% of her class this school year regularly use fidgets. “If I have to take it away for being a toy, I will stop the whole class and make that a teachable moment for everyone.

I think a lot of people expect that fidgets will just work. That’s not how we teach. I’m about giving them a chance because the fidgets really do help the kids. You have to see who it’s going to work for, and the kids who it won’t work for, and adjust.

“For us, it has become routine now. It may not work for everyone and that is a realization kids come to also. I wouldn’t have thought they would work so well for practically my whole class.

“I love fidgets. I’m for all of them.”