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PAWS Literacy Program Helping Students Overcome Reading Obstacles

PAWS Literacy Program Helping Students Overcome Reading Obstacles
Posted on 03/15/2018

Learning to read can be a very frustrating experience for some students. Struggling students often lack confidence and become very anxious and uncomfortable.

Kerri Price, a Language and Humanities teacher at Buist Academy is passionate about dogs and reading. She started the non-profit Paws for Literacy and has brought joy to people at schools, nursing homes, hospitals and wherever there is a need.

The goal of the organization is to bring pet therapy into schools to encourage and promote literacy, provide a sense of comfort and companionship, and reduce anxiety. The overall goal is for students to practice their reading skills while interacting with a therapy dog.

Practical Use in CCSD Schools

PAWS LiteracyThe program at Buist gives students the opportunity to practice their reading skills with a non-judgmental therapy dog. The program is held on Saturday mornings once a month.

Erica Smith, a teacher librarian runs the PAWS Literacy Program at Wando High School. Currently, six therapy dogs and their handlers volunteer their time twice a week to meet with exceptional education students.

The students use the dogs to practice sounds and speech through reading or being read to by the handlers. The presence of the dog has a calming effect on the students and truly gets them excited to try to read. During the testing season, the dogs will also moonlight as anxiety release dogs for Wando AP students.

At Chicora Elementary, the dog reading therapy was open to all students, grades CD-5, and ran 2-3 days a week. Students exhibited the same responses to the dogs as the Wando students, but they would literally beg to come read with the dogs. It also worked wonderfully as a behavioral management system. Students would try their hardest to be in control of their actions so they would not lose the privilege of spending time reading to the dogs. Teachers saw student reading ability increase as the program continued over several months

The one-on-one reading environment gave the students the confidence to try reading out loud, as they realized the therapy dogs do not judge or tease them for stumbling over words. For most of the students in the program, reading became the brightest point in their day.

Future of the PAWS Literacy Program

PAWS Ms. Price has partnered with the Education Department at the College of Charleston to design a standards-based curriculum for the program.

In February, Ms. Price and Ms. Smith conducted a Professional Development seminar for all the CCSD librarians on how to set up successful programs. The goal is for every school in the district to benefit from having the program available to their students.

For more information, please visit the Paws for Literacy Facebook site

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