Share-A-Pet Pawsitive Reading Program takes dogs into schools. In addition to serving Children’s hospitals and schools for the developmentally disabled, Share-A-Pet has launched its ‘Pawsitive Reading’ program to serve the schools in our area. The program began at Coral Sunset Elementary School in Boca Raton, Florida, where the school adopted our Pawsitive Reading Program to help students grow comfortable with books while reading to our dogs. The mission of this program is to provide children the means to improve their reading skills in a supportive atmosphere created by the Share-A-Pet volunteers and therapy dogs.
BENEFITS OF PAWSITIVE READING
Those of us who own dogs know the joy and therapeutic benefit that they bring to us on a daily basis. Dogs, by virtue of their nature, have only unconditional love to offer. They make in fact, very good listeners! They do not criticize or judge a child’s reading ability. Dogs like to be spoken to and love the attention they receive from the reader. In turn, they can “reward” the reader by allowing themselves to be petted or by shaking paws. Thus the ‘pawsitive’ dogs provide the therapeutic environment necessary for successful implementation of ‘Pawsitive Reading’. The program consists of developing basic strategies (1) for the children to develop and improve their reading skills, (2) to have the children read aloud to other children and to the ‘pawsitive’ dog, (3) for children to work independently and (4) to provide children with a sense of pride in their reading accomplishments. The use of certified therapy dogs in literacy programs is finding widespread success across the country.
Teachers seeking innovative ways to build motivation and interest among reluctant readers have found that bringing a dog into the classroom creates excitement and boosts self confidence in their students. Trained volunteer teams of dogs and handlers work collaboratively with teachers to meet their school’s reading fluency goals. In addition to increased reading fluency, teachers have also noted that the students who participated also volunteered to read aloud in class, checked books out of the library and had a sense of pride in their accomplishments. Students are excited by the chance to spend time reading to their furry friend. Because of their natural affinity with animals, children who may have been embarrassed to read aloud, let down their guard and begin feeling relaxed while reading with the dog’s head in their lap. Even students in the classroom who are reading at grade level may earn the privilege of reading to the dog, because it is fun and non-stressful. The program goals are manifold and include providing children with a supportive, non- judgmental environment where they learn to read fluently, to learn how books work and to know that print carries meaning. In addition, we aim to have children enrolled in the ‘Pawsitive Reading’ program develop self confidence and social skills, be interested and intrigued by learning and make reading a fun exercise.
NEED FOR READING ASSISTANCE
Literacy and reading fluency are the cornerstones of educational success. When children fall behind in their reading skills they can lose precious time in all of their subjects, putting them at- risk of academic failure. In 2008, for example, 34% of students in public elementary schools in Florida’s Broward and Palm Beach counties failed to meet the FCAT standards for reading on grade level (FL Dept. of Education, School Accountability Reports 2007-2008). A similar report indicated that students who did not meet yearly progress goals for reading proficiency were black, economically disadvantaged, English language learners or disabled (FL Dept. of Education, Adequate Yearly Progress Report by District). By including these higher risk groups and giving them enriched programming and additional help with basic reading skills, schools could make strides to improve their progress. The community benefits when students succeed academically at a young age and have the skills to complete high school and seek a college education. With budget constraints in many public schools, it is difficult for teachers to meet the minimum requirements issued by the state and school districts. Economically disadvantaged students who have learning disabilities or other barriers to learning can be helped with intensive remedial interventions. However, this is not always an option. Our free Pawsitive Reading Program is a welcome adjunct to existing curriculum as it reinforces the basic reading skills, the foundation of all learning. To help support literacy in the world, please donate to the Pawsitive Reading Program now by clicking the red ‘Donate’ button below. We thank you for your support!