Therapy dog helping kids improve reading skills

NOW: Therapy dog helping kids improve reading skills

MISHAWAKA, Ind. --- While many children might be missing school and their friends, one unexpected student is still finding a way to reach children.

One local woman is bringing happiness and learning to childrens’ homes with the help of her registered therapy dog, Sophie.

‘“Sophie, do you want to go to school’ and she runs to the door,” Dana Durfee said, Sophie’s owner.

Sophie is not the average student, but she loves school.

The 8-year-old poodle is a certified therapy dog and has been visiting Prairie Vista Elementary in Granger for five years and the students absolutely love her.

“And they will all sit around Sophie and they take turns reading to her,” Durfee said. “The kids absolutely love it and I think the teachers love it just as much too.”

Reading can be intimidating for young children when they are first starting out.

“But it’s a really good experience for kindergarteners,” Durfee said. “They’re learning to read and some of them are shy about reading or struggle to read or they’re self-conscious and so we always tell them you can read to Sophie and Sophie doesn’t care if you make a mistake.”

Due to the pandemic, Dana and Sophie cannot visit children at schools and when parents told Dana that their kids missed reading to Sophie, she knew she had to do something.

“I started having my son read books to Sophie and posted them to Facebook and coordinated with the kindergarten teachers there so that they could send the links out,” Durfee said.

Dana, Sophie and her son started making videos about two weeks ago and have two reading videos online now for children to watch at any time.

“I’ve had a lot of parents contacting me saying how much their kids or the previous kids that we’ve had before have enjoyed seeing Sophie’s videos,” Durfee said.

For Dana and Sophie, they love to put a smile on childrens’ faces and see how their reading skills improve.

“It’s really nice because I get to see the kids from when they start out learning to read when they’re only doing a few words to the end of the school year where they can read a whole small book to Sophie and to see the progress that they make.”

So far the response has been great and the pair are happy to bring some light during a tough time, according to Durfee.

“If this makes a kid happy because they get to see Sophie then it makes my day better too,” Durfee said.

Depending on what the response is like, Durfee said she is considering making these videos even after the pandemic ends for past students and any others to watch.

If you’d like to watch Sophie’s videos, click here.

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