Friday, October 28, 2011

Dogs Go to School. See Them Learn.

Story and video by Michael Orton
©2011 ImageProviders – All Rights Reserved
filed elsewhere and used by permission

Salt Lake City – 

Like lots of kids, George and Jack went to school today, but they had to have prior, special permission to do it. They are dogs with Intermountain Therapy Animals whose mission is to provide companionship to young readers, to build reader confidence and provide incentives for specific and individualized learning. Today that was as easy as "A...B...C..." In their service, they are called-upon to offer interaction, activity or specific therapies with screened and trained handlers, all free of charge to clients and other program providers who enlist their help.

ITA dog handlers are trained to recognize situations where a dog works better than a person. Both George and Jack are Reading Education Assistance Dogs® who use their trained, kind and gentle nature, coupled with books including canine themes, to assist other learners acquiring fundamental skills. They are frequent visitors at area homes, hospitals and of course, schools. Working for the Utah-based ITA, they also have chapters in Montana, Idaho, Nevada and as far east as Kentucky.

Though participating dogs like George and Jack cannot read themselves, their handlers admit that they certainly understand language, because the handlers must routinely spell words that they don't want them to recognize immediately. Words like "Walk," or "Treat" or the name of a special and favorite friend. In this way, they are quite similar to other learners acquiring literacy skills. 

Wednesday's "Reading Buddies" effort included a visit by Utah's first lady, Jeanette Herbert, who is a dedicated booster of reading and learning. She came to visit the children and the dogs, with some experience and books to share. VIDEO:

©2011 ImageProviders – All Rights Reserved; Used by Pernission

Recent research indicates that "lap reading" is the most significant predictor of future literacy in children, and new evidence also suggests that it even works well when the roles are reversed: If you were reading to a special friend like George or Jack... or even to the governor's wife, you learned that today you were as important as anyone else in the state. 


For more information about Intermountain Therapy Animals, their numerous programs for adults and children, they can be reached at:  Area 801 - 272- threefourthreenine

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