Therapy Dogs Help Students Learn to Read

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SAN DIEGO, Ca. — Some California elementary students are getting some help with reading. Their tutors aren’t teachers, they’re four-legged friends.

Every Friday, seven therapy dogs come to Solana Highlands Elementary School. One student says it’s easier for her to read to the dog.

“It helps me relax and it helps me read the book,” said student Jessica Zevallos.

The school’s reading specialist says eliminating anxiety over reading is the key to why the new program works.

“The animal is not going to judge them,” said Emily Glassford-Valenzano. “The animal is not going to correct them or make fun of them.”

The school’s principal started Therapy Dog Fridays two months ago. Based on the program’s early success, he now wishes he’d started the program five years ago when he first became principal.

“I want to give opportunities for all kids to be successful,” he said. “This is just another avenue to do that.”

A recent study found third graders in Northern California who read to dogs once a week for ten weeks saw a 12 percent improvement in reading skills.

The program at Solana Highlands is free to the school and the dog owners & animals volunteer their time.
Both dogs and owners have to pass a test and background check and be licensed once a year.

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