In 2009, the The paws4reading foundation became an affiliated member of the Intermountain Therapy Animal’s R.E.A.D.® (Reading Educational Assistance Dogs) Program. R.E.A.D.® is a nationally recognized Literacy Program. The Program’s mission is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered animal therapy teams as literacy mentors. Also of interest: Senator Orrin Hatch submitted a Senate Resolution designating November 14th, 2009 National Reading Education Assistance Dog Day commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the R.E.A.D.® Program.
The R.E.A.D.® certification provides the handler a wide variety of skills, strategies, and tactics to better instruct the children they work with.
During the later part of the 2008/09 school year, The paws4reading conducted R.E.A.D.® pilot programs at Hillsboro Elementary School and Mountain View Elementary School. In school year 2009/10, several additional Loudoun County Public Schools were included in the program. Schools in North Carolina and West Virginia also participated in the paws4reading Program. The paws4reading Program was also invited into three County library systems.
Together with Reading Specialists and Teachers, students were selected who would most benefit from the program (i.e., those students reading below grade level, students with low self-esteem, students with learning disabilities, etc). Each student/child spends about 15-20 minutes with the dog — a few minutes getting acquainted and comfortable and then time reading. The same students participate each week so that a more trusted, secure relationship between the student and the dog evolves. The student/child and the dog sit together on the floor, usually with some physical connection between dog and child. Experience has shown that the student’s/child’s self-confidence and self-esteem flourish because the dogs are non-judgmental and provide a level of relaxation to the learning environment.
One key to the success of the paws4reading / R.E.A.D.® experience is a shift away from the student viewing him/her self as the target of yet another remedial program, and toward them seeing themselves as tutors and helpers for the dog. In essence, the student/child becomes the “teacher” and as is known, when one teaches, one learns.
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Professional Photos © Joan Brady