Townsend Students Meet Reading Fluency Target with Support Dog’s Help

Yori, a support dog, comes to Townsend for 30 minutes per classroom. Students take turns reading to Yori.

Yori, a support dog, comes to Townsend for 30 minutes per classroom. Students take turns reading to Yori.

Second graders from Townsend Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District, are enjoying something fun this semester, the PAWs for Reading Program.  On Tuesday mornings, Yori, a support dog, comes to Townsend for 30 minutes per classroom. Students take turns reading to Yori.  The school’s principal shared how this program helps to support one of HSD’s primary goals, to increase student achievement.

“The learning target is all about reading with fluency, feeling, and expression. When children learn to read aloud with fluency, their brain will learn to automatically read with fluency when they read silently,” said Townsend Principal Dr. Maxine Valdez. “Although the support dog project seems fun, it is all about learning and growing as a fluent reader which is another initiative designed to increase student achievement.”

Yori is a female mixed breed, part Boxer and part Whippet. She was born in a shelter and weighs about 45 pounds, and is 4 years old.

The students view the dog as lovable and nonjudgmental, which are the keys to success in the Paws for Reading literacy program. Children have said that the dog gives them confidence because a dog doesn’t make fun of them if they read slowly or mess up pronouncing a word. They are also great listeners and give the child a sense of comfort while reading.

Paws for Healing (PFH) is a nonprofit organization that trains and certifies canine- assisted therapy (CAT) teams. The dogs are then able to participate in programs that enhance the quality of life for people with special needs in educational and health care facilities.

Through its Paws for Reading literacy program, PFH places volunteers and their dogs in a classroom or library to act as an incentive for children to read. Dogs are viewed as nonthreatening entities who can promote reading and increase interaction and social skills in children.



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