Dogs may not be able to read, but they can sure help kids learn!
Meet Booker T. Pug, who was named after late educator and author Booker T. Washington. The 3-year-old is a licensed therapy dog — and the reason children in Covington, Georgia, are falling in love with books.
According to the nonprofit Get Georgia Reading, two-thirds of the state’s third-graders are reading below their age level. But at South Salem Elementary School, Booker is helping turn those numbers around!
His owner and handler, Meghen Bassel, works in the school’s media center, where she got the green light from district officials to start bringing Booker in full-time. There, students can participate in the “Tail Waggin’ Tutors” program by reading aloud to Booker, whom they call their dog.
“Booker offers a nonjudgmental environment for kids to practice reading,” Meghen explained. “He’s not going to notice if they said a word incorrectly, missed a word, or didn’t attempt a word. He will simply sit and listen.”
The pug’s presence has had other benefits as well! Spending time with him has helped some kids overcome their fear of dogs, while others have found comfort being near him on bad days.
What’s more, Booker is opening the world up to them! One of Meghen’s goals in bringing him to the school is to expose students to cultures and experiences outside of Newton County.
So when she entered Booker into the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, she turned it into a fun lesson about the show’s history and New York City. Of course, her students cheered Booker on from afar when he placed sixth out of 27 pugs and won a merit award!
All in all, Booker has been an incredible addition to the school’s staff. He gets kids excited about reading and learning in a way little else could!
“I love watching the students start the program with him and seeing the changes that happen in those students,” Meghen said.
They’re no longer afraid of picking up books and reading in front of the class, whereas before they would whisper or pass on the opportunity. They jump at the chance now. It’s amazing to see. One little dog.
What a good boy — and a wonderful teacher! Dogs make the world a better place in so many ways. These kids are lucky to have him!
Share this story if you would love to see this program in other schools.
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