If you walk down the halls of Evergreen or Harbor Heights Elementary schools on a particular day, you might find Rohan or Sasha stretched out on the floor of the school library, tails wagging, listening to a child read a book.
No, people aren’t sneaking pets into school. These pups are part of the Tutors with Tails Reading Program, which recently expanded its pawprints into two additional Gig Harbor/Key Peninsula schools. Launched in partnership with Communities In Schools of Peninsula (CISP) and the Peninsula School District, the pilot program provides struggling elementary students the opportunity to read with certified therapy dogs; boosting their literacy, confidence and social skills.
“The concept of the program is simple, but the transformation seen in the children participating in the program at is amazing,” says Communities In Schools of Peninsula Site Coordinator Tricia Endsley. “The students here at Evergreen Elementary that read with Rohan are generally quiet and reserved, but as soon as they see their canine buddy, it’s like they become different children. They go over and hug him and snuggle right next to him to read.”
Across the country, certified therapy dogs like Rohan and Sasha are headed to school with their handlers as volunteer tutors. The safe and comforting environment provided by the canine companions is ideal for early readers, who sometimes feel uncomfortable reading in front of others.
The interaction provides not only an academic boost to students, but also helps kids who need social emotional support, teaching equally important lessons such as kindness and compassion.
Harbor Heights Elementary School Principal Stephanie Strader is thrilled to have the program at her school.
There are currently three therapy teams lending an ear to students in Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula, following the launch of the program at Minter Creek Elementary School last spring. PSD Director of Communications and Community Engagement Kathy Weymiller says the program has been a source of excitement and pride for students and staff across the Peninsula.
“We would love to see this program in every school,” she says. “Everyone seems happier when the dogs are working to help students to learn.”
The kids who read with Sasha and Rohan could not agree more.
For more information on the Tutors with Tails Reading Program, contact Cathy Rich at 253-509-9397 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.