Elm Street read to dogs

Elm Street Elementary School third graders read to the dogs at Public Animal Welfare Services during one of their monthly trips to the facility. / PAWS

Once a month for the past three years a group of third grade Elm Street Elementary School students take a trip to Public Animal Welfare Services to work on their reading fluency by reading to the dogs housed there.

Teacher Chris White said the exercise lets the kids practice reading out loud in an environment free of judgment and teaches them compassion for the adoptable animals.

“Every time I’ve gone it ends up being like magic,” she said.

When they first get there the dogs are all stirred up, but after a few minutes of the kids reading to them the dogs will sit and listen. Some even come lay by the kids feet she said. The students will get on their level and read softly to them she added.

“It’s so funny the kids will show the pictures to the dogs,” White said.

White and other teachers talk to the kids about having compassion for the shelter animals as well as why it is important to get the larger dogs adopted. The students will also make healthy dog treats to give the dogs. White said parents have even gotten involved and helped sell some of the dog treats at Christmas in the Country and other events.

The idea was proposed to former Principal JoAnn Moss who encouraged teachers to teach outside the box according to White. After Moss moved to the central office and Laura Walley took over she was just as supportive of the monthly trip, said White.

Another partner the third grade teacher wanted to recognize was PAWS themselves. They always look forward to us coming she said. Three years ago when the facility first opened, White heard of another school that was doing something similar. After getting administrative approval she took a group of third graders to read to the dogs. The second year the school took all of the third graders in rotated groups, which they are doing again this year.

After the students are done with their reading they stop by the puppy room for a little bit of reading and a more hands-on experience White said. They stop by and see the cat room as well before they head back to school.