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edu180atl: pamela hopkins 5.4.12

Today was READing Paws Day. For the last 6 years my students have enjoyed reading to therapy dogs as a part of the READing Paws program. READing Paws is the Georgia Chapter of the national R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) program. I began with one dog and now have 8 dogs who come to my school on a weekly basis.Usually the students are in pairs and  walk down to a special room set up with rugs, pillows and lots of books to read to their special friends.

Today I decided to go with my students as they went see their buddies Bromley and Benton, 175 pound Leonbergers. I know how much they like to read to Bromley and Benton because they ask me if they are coming every week, but today, sitting inthe back corner and seeing how they respsond to the dogs gave me a whole new perspective on the advantages of this program. Each student takes a few minutes to pet, hug, talk to and visit with the dogs. Then Wick, the handler, asks them to pick out a book to read. Some of the students actually ask the dogs which book they would like to read. Some just sat beside or in front of the dogs and took turns reading, but most layed down beside them or layed on them to read.

You can immediately see the connection each student had with the dogs. The students who are better readers read even more fluidly and comfortably. The students who struggle with reading appeared to have a calmness about them and patience with reading words that were difficult for them. They did not hesitate to take their turn and did not show frustration or embarassment when they needed assistance with a word.

Seeing my students with Bromley and Benton validated that this program is a valuable part of their reading instruction. Thank you to all reading dog programs. You give students the opportunity to feel successful and enjoy reading.

About the author: Pamela Hopkins is a Special Education teacher and Media Representative at Sweet Apple Elementary

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