Therapy Dogs Helps Dove Students with Reading
Posted on 12/06/2022
Dove Elementary students have a new furry friend – Nigel, a therapy dog who on Friday, December 2, visited the school for his second session and is helping students become more confident with their reading.

“Teachers choose a couple of students who either need help with reading, are hesitant to read in front of the class, or sometimes it’s students who have shown good behavior and this is kind of a reward,” said Dove counselor Jennifer Hill, who is the contact with Pet Partners, a nationwide nonprofit organization that works with volunteers of handlers.

Nigel, a three-year-old English cream golden retriever, is one of two dogs who is visiting Dove Elementary this school year. The program, which was paused during COVID, was resumed because of the success it's having with students.

“Helping students become confident readers and find joy in reading in elementary school translates to life-long readers,” Principal Heather Landrum said. “We know that to achieve our literacy goals this year for students, the best thing we can do is to help them find joy in reading.”

Hill said that they are indeed finding that joy.

“We’ve seen students who wouldn’t read in front of their class who have started to read in front of the therapy dog,” Hill said. “It’s something that’s really comfortable for them. Students who may not talk much in class will come and they will ask about the dog. There’s some social benefits there as well.”

Students are selected by their teachers to visit the school’s library as part of small groups during the time the therapy dog visits. During the last visit, Nigel’s handler Cindy Thorton had a special surprise for them – a card of Nigel that resembles a baseball trading card. On the front was Nigel’s picture in a field of flowers. The reverse side had stats about him, including that he likes going on walks, riding in the car and loves to give hugs.

Although Nigel doesn’t visit every day, students now have a special keepsake reminder of their four-legged friend. More importantly, they have a reminder of their success with reading.