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An Unlikely Reading Partner

Students struggling with learning to read are receiving confidence boosts by turning to a new, unlikely reading partner: reading therapy dogs.

By reading to dogs, children can build their confidence and reading skills without facing the risk of judgment by their classmates.

Kathy Klotz, the executive director of a company which runs a program called Reading Education Assistance Dogs, believes that new readers benefit from their canine partners' attentiveness.

"A factor that we never planned for, that turned out to be really important, is that the child feels like they're letting the dog understand the story," Klotz says. "They get to be the teacher, the storyteller, the one who knows more than the dog for a change. ...They just blossom when they get to be the one who knows more than the dog."

Jim Wilmoth owns Bailey, a registered therapy dog who attends reading sessions every week at local libraries as part of the "Sit. Stay. Read." program—a therapy program similar to R.E.A.D.

"The kids come in and read stories to Bailey and other therapy dogs for about 15 or 20 minutes at a time," says Wilmoth. "It encourages them to practice their reading skills ... and it's a good way to involve families with the library system."

While Klotz doesn't have scientific data to prove her program's success, she believes its impact reaches far beyond teaching students how to read.

"It's not just reading scores," she says. "They start to speak up in class, and volunteer, and finish homework. They don't want to miss school when they're going to read to the dog, so it improves attendance. It kind of just flows over onto everything."

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