Therapy Dog Program Aims To Help Kids Improve Reading Skills

Program In Effect At Solana Highlands Elementary School

Seven therapy dogs are now visiting the campus of Solana Highlands Elementary School to help about 60 students improve their reading skills.

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Solana Highlands implemented the program about two months ago. The school's principal, Jerry Jones, told 10News he got the idea to bring therapy dogs to his school after hearing of a similar program at another school on National Public Radio two years ago.

"I want to give opportunities for all kids to be successful," Jones said. "This is just another avenue to do that."

Jones was convinced to bring it to Solana Highlands after reading a UC Davis study which found students who read to therapy dogs once a week for ten weeks saw their reading proficiency improve by 12 percent.

Kindergartener Jessica Zevallos told 10News, "It helps me relax and it helps me read the book."

Reading specialist Emily Glassford-Valenzano said eliminating the anxiety over reading is the key to why the new program works. For the participants, reading to dogs is much less stressful than reading to adults or other children, said Glassford-Valenzano.

"The animal is not going to judge them," she said. "The animal is not going to correct them or make fun of them."

The dogs are provided through Therapy Dogs, Inc. The dogs' owners must submit to background checks and the dogs must pass obedience and behavioral tests before they are allowed into the program and on the campus.

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