Cool Schools: Reading with a twist

For some grade schools students, a love of reading books comes easily but for others, they need a little extra motivation.

Ox Bow Elementary School is aiding in that extra motivation. For the last handful of years, the school has had a "Reading Buddies" program in place.

“We just hope this program will continue and we can always use more volunteers. The other schools in our district have not had someone to step up and volunteer so I know that the other schools would welcome that as well,” said Pam Juday, Interventionist Teacher at Ox Bow Elementary

The program consists of bringing a dog into the school for the students to read with.

“I’ve noticed that they interact more with books when they’re reading with a service pet,” Juday added.

The program targets students who are having trouble learning to read or need a little extra motivation to read.

Kaleb Stutsman is in third grade and has read to a dog several times. “It was fun. Sometimes you feel like you’re sad and you just want to read to someone,” said Stutsman.

“When I read with someone and they like to cuddle, I feel happy about it,” said Kanek Castillo Hernandez who has read to Trouper several times.

It is a completely volunteer program. Trouper is a therapy dog and goes into the school once a week to assist with reading.

"I have definitely seen a growing bond that is noticeable. I believe he makes each child feel special,” said Trouper's owner Christine Schaubert.

Trouper has been working in the school for three weeks and each week Schaubert has noticed the bond between him and the children grow.

“This week it was like they greeted him like a long lost friend and he showed recognition to them as well,” she added.

When children read to the dog, it provides a unique environment. “It’s just a time away where they can relax and take some risks with reading because no one is going to challenge them,” Juday said.

Trouper is limited to two hours per visit so he is able to spend time with about six different children for 20 minutes each.

Juday said they always need more volunteers and they would like to have more dogs involved in the program. However, dogs have to go through extensive training and become registered before they can go into the schools. 

“The training is the responsibility of the handler and we do take a handler training course that is one day long and within a couple weeks of that course we have an opportunity to test and become registered,” Schaubert added.

She said that going into schools and reading with Trouper and the children is a rewarding experience.

“I would encourage people who are encouraging puppies to think big. Don’t  just think about how your pet can be an asset to your family, think about how your pet can be a blessing to your community because you will benefit as well,” said Schaubert.

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