Pooch helps Eagle County kids read
Edwards, CO Colorado
EDWARDS, Colorado ” Moose, a four-year-old English Labrador retriever, has become a connoisseur of children’s books in Edwards, C0lorado.
Students at Eagle County Charter Academy take turns reading to him on Thursdays. There are moments when Moose appears to be following along and looking at the illustrations, but mostly, he lounges, yawns, licks, stretches, wags his tail, cuddles up next to the kids and looks especially happy when petted.
Having a trained dog in a reading classroom is actually very helpful for the kids, says Elizabeth Dekanich, a reading specialist at the school.
Moose has a calming effect on students and allows them to loosen up when they’re having trouble reading a passage.
“When they read it to me, they have a little more anxiety,” Dekanich said. “With a dog, there’s no criticism or judgment, and no laughter if the child makes a mistake.”
Moose is a reading certified dog with the “Wagging Tales” program run by the Vail Valley Pet Partners. It’s his job to basically be a kid’s reading buddy, and he’s just one way the Charter Academy is giving extra help to students who are having difficulties reading.
Students who piloted the program last year showed big improvements. “They practice a passage all week that they’re going to read to Moose, and they want it to be good for him,” Dekanich said.
Rita Skelton is Moose’s owner and comes by once a week. She said reading dogs like Moose have to have a pretty even temperament to be certified. They must pass a demanding obedience test, and they also have to demonstrate that they can handle being in a classroom with lots of kids.
A reading dog must enjoy being petted and can’t lose control when they see toys or food.
“It has to be a calm, gentle dog that likes to be around kids,” Skelton said.
Pet Partners is an international organization that trains a wide variety of therapy animals, from dogs to chickens, to visit people in schools, rehab centers, hospitals and nursing homes.
Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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