Canine Volunteers Help Children Learn to Read - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/13/05

Canine Volunteers Help Children Learn to Read

Most of us do it without thinking, but learning to read can be a challenge for some children. Teachers say motivation is often half the battle.

That's why some educators have found an interesting way to help kids learn to love books. At Springfield Elementary School, man's best friend is proving he's also a pretty good listener.

As part of a new reading motivation program at the school--the first of its kind in Effingham County--children read to trained therapy dogs. They help the children learn to read by making it fun, instead of a chore.

"This is just almost a natural motivation," said reading teacher Kristie Long. "The dog just naturally draws a child to him, and they really, really want to read to those dogs."

About 35 students participate. They pick books early in the week and practice reading, to share with their friends each Thursday morning.

"They sit down and they put one hand on him, and he just lays his head on them, and they melt," said Fran Withers of Dynasty Canine Training Facility, referring to her Australian shepherd Dakota. "And then they open their book and they're relaxed and they're happy to be with him."

Teachers say the unconditional love of man's best friend will stick with these blossoming book lovers. "The anxiety factor is not there," said Long. "The fear of 'maybe I might do it wrong' is not there. And so they're able to be more relaxed and actually enjoy reading. And that's we want the children to do too, is to learn to love reading."

By the looks of it, they're off to a good start.

If you'd like to participate in the Read-to-a-Dog program, you can contact Dynasty Canine Training at 912.754.4834.

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com

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