Education Nation Reading With Dogs

Thursday, September 23, 2010 - 1:42pm

Program uses cuddly canines to encourage reading.

Getting slobbered on and scratching bellies is all part of a normal school day for some students at Yuma, Arizona's Desert Mesa Elementary.

They incorporate man's best friend in a program called R.E.A.D, or "Reading Education Assistance Dogs".

"If you're a hesitant reader or you're just learning to read, the dog doesn't care that you mis-pronounce the word or that you read slowly, they're just there to support you," explains principal Eula Baumgarner.

Teacher Tim Gilliland brought the concept of using canines as teaching aides to Desert Mesa six years ago.

The pooches have all gone through training to make them official "therapy" or "service" dogs.

"It started when we had some guide dogs returned from that program, but they still needed something to do," Gilliland says.

Each day students and their furry, four-legged friends take class together, learning side-by-side.

Teachers say the dogs help them with more than just reading.

"You ask anyone who's been around these dogs and they seem to seek out the kids that need them that day. We don't often question it we just let it happen," says Gilliland.

The school says the program is also a big hit with parents who often request that their kids be in the classrooms with dogs.

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