By Tia Lynn Ivey
One teacher at Morgan County Middle School (MCMS) is helping students learn to love reading with a creative new program. This new educational support program is bringing together MCMS students with orphaned canines to enhance these children’s reading capabilities.
Sarah Robertson, MCMS teacher and founder of Paws for Reading, partnered with Brandi Skinner, director of the Humane Society of Morgan County (HSMC) to bring dogs in need of some TLC from the shelter alongside students in need of strengthened reading skills.
“The mission of Paws for Reading is to improve the literacy skills of children with the assistance of canine reading companions in a fun and relaxed environment,” explained Robertson. “Paws for Reading is designed to attract children from every reading level. Research with animals indicates that children with low self-esteem are often more willing to interact with an animal than another person. Even more, they are inclined to forget about their limitations.” According to Robertson, dogs are the ideal reading audience because they do not laugh or criticize, are less intimidating than peers and provide silent encouragement and acceptance.
“Patient, nonjudgmental, adoptable dogs help reluctant readers gain confidence and improve their reading skills,” added Robertson.
Robertson got the idea for the program by combining her two greatest passions, teaching and caring for animals. “I saw a need for my students confidence in reading and fluency to increase. While we were working with the elementary and primary schools to read to smaller children, I noticed my students were embarrassed and not excited about reading,” said Robertson. “As soon as I brought in the dogs, however, my students lit up and begged to read to the dogs again. Paws for Reading has increased their motivation and fluency, as well as their confidence and attendance.”
Robertson usually brings in two dogs per session, rotating animals in the shelter each week. “[We do this] in order to bring exposure to different adoptable dogs, as well as to socialize the dogs. I typically choose the dogs that have been at the Humane Society for quite sometime and may need some extra love!”
Robertson started up this effort in March 2016 and is already seeing admirable results.
“We have already seen the motivation and fluency of our students increase!” said Robertson. Robertson hopes the local community will get involved in this work by donating book for all reading levels as well as meet these gentle canine companions and adopt them into their families.
The Paws for Reading program works with kids at Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls Club and every Friday with students at the MCMS. For more information, visit the Paws for Reading the program’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pawsforreading.