Students Practice Reading Skills with Therapy Dogs

Students Practice Reading Skills with Therapy Dogs
Students reading books with a therapy dog

For students in the Comsewogue School District, reading is a bit less “ruff” when their reading partners have four legs and a wagging tail. Once a month, Boyle Road Elementary School gives its third-grade reading students a chance to practice their reading skills and strategies with the comfort of greyhound therapy dogs Argus and Ziggy.

“Our therapy dog program gives students a comfortable, nonjudgmental environment to practice reading alongside a furry friend,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jennifer Quinn. “We see firsthand how our students let go of their fears and anxieties around cute, lovable dogs. With the support of the therapy dogs, they’re able to break out of their shells and step up to challenges with confidence so they can expand their skills and knowledge.”

Students are given time to pet and unwind with the therapy dogs while they take turns reading aloud. The Comsewogue School District hosts its therapy dog program through a collaboration with Pet Partners, the national’s leading nonprofit for animal-assisted therapy.

While animal-assisted therapy has been growing in popularity in recent years, the practice has been studied for over a century. Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, recognized its potential in the late 1800s when she paired children and adults in psychiatric institutions with small pets. In her renowned 1859 book, Notes on Nursing, she recorded how having an animal companion helped her patients recover.

Pet Partners launched its Animal Therapy Program in 1990 and hosts a variety of demonstrations, activities and educational opportunities with its therapy dogs. Each year, the organization completes about three million visits across the country with reading students, people with developmental disabilities, seniors living with Alzheimer’s, veterans recovering from PTSD and people who have experienced crisis or trauma.

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