Are your children feeling increasingly isolated due to their online attempts to learn? Do they seem more tired than usual? Maybe they are experiencing “ZOOM fatigue.”

Taking a break from watching their computers or iPads is a necessity. If you find your children’s attention wandering, you owe it to them to let their online teacher know so she/he can arrange movement or snack breaks. Your children’s brains will work much better after a short break even to tend to or play with their pet.

You might even try pets as classmates or learning partners. They make good listeners and are non-judgmental. They show their appreciation for your children’s learning by just being there. Children can stumble through a passage they are trying to read or facts they are trying to remember, and their pets remain consistent listeners. Children will bond with the animal they are reading or reciting to and be motivated to visit that animal over and over again.

Reading to an animal can significantly impact students’ reading rates. Research shows that when reading to pets, children achieve higher end-of-year reading scores, and improve reading rates, accuracy, fluency and comprehension. They also are better able to stay on task when a furry, feathered, or scaled companion is involved. (We Are All Ears: Pet Partners and Elanco). Highly Sensitive Learners (Supporting Super Students column of Sept. 30) will find this activity especially non-threatening.

It is not just reading to their pets, but even reciting math facts or rules to them gives your children much needed practice and confidence.

To give your children this opportunity, you will need to set up a comfortable spot for your children and their pets to be. Watch to be sure the children even show the pictures to their pets if they choose to read a book. They may even clap their hands or gently tap their pets as they recite the facts they need to learn. Encourage your children to pause and pet their animal to keep them settled down and comfortable with your children’s voice. You might even have a treat or favorite pet toy nearby to keep the pet engaged if needed. Be sure to reward your children and their pets for their good behavior during this time.

You as a family might even help your children set learning goals by reading or reciting to their pets. They may need to learn to spell some new words or know their 7x tables by the end of a week.

You might even combine art with your children’s learning, keeping a record or log of what they need to learn for their grade level, making bookmarks for reading books to their pets or to which pet they recite their math facts. Maybe they can design a logo for their pets and imprint it with fabric paints on a bandana for their pet or a T-shirt for themselves.

When children read or recite to their pets (even stuffed animals), they have a learning partner or classmate every day of the week.

Southern Arizona resident Bette Mroz is a former teacher, reading specialist and principal. As a mother and grandmother, she continues to help her family learn. She can be contacted at