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Therapy dogs provide ‘gentle ear’ to help kids learn to read

NORTH CAROLINA -- Therapy dogs like Rosie, Dazzle and Duncan visit Lynn Road Elementary a couple times a week as part of a program known as Helping Paws.

Jeani Gray started the program back in 2000.

"It allows our students to have a non-judgmental reading partner. We're giving the children the ability to relax, and enjoy, and learn," she said.

The dogs may be a lot of fun, but they've been through a tremendous amount of training leading up to their new roles.

"Our dogs usually have at least eight months of training and are tested six to eight times before they enter the classrooms."

Not only are they a child's new best friend, they provide a gentle ear for children to practice reading.

"By not correcting the child, they're not getting tense and nervous. We're not saying, 'go back, read that again.' We're saying, 'Oh Dazzle just didn't understand that,' or, 'Dazzle wasn't listening. Will you go back and read that again for Dazzle?'"

"Their confidence and self-esteem really seem to do much, much better when they're reading with the dogs," added Jennifer Taylor, School Library Media Coordinator.

So far, five schools in North Carolina are participating in the program, with 24 more hoping to get the program soon.

"It impacts all of us working in the building. It seems like the whole school seems to get calmer just having their presence here."