Therapy dog helps children overcome fear of reading

- Has reading gone to the dogs? Not really, but reading to dogs is a whole different story. 

Duncan is welcome sight in Nacey Mckendree's first grade class at the Academy at the Farm in Dade City. Students read to the collie to minimize their fears over reading aloud.

Maryann Campbell is Duncan's owner and they are part of a program called "Reading Education Assistance Dogs" or R.E.A.D. The national program is dedicated to improving the reading skills of children by using a trained volunteer with a animal assisted therapy dog. 

"He doesn't care if they make a mistake. He is just happy to hear them talking to him all day," Campbell explained.

Mckendree said students in her class show marked improvement since they began reading to Duncan.

"A lot of [the students who] would hesitate to read with a teacher, or even a peer, will volunteer to read with Duncan," she said.

"It's fun and I like how he comes up to me and he licks me," explained student Lindsey.

Maryann and Duncan's come to the school twice a week and work one-on-one with students for 20 minutes each, helping them feel comfortable reading.

Chole Gomez is 7 years old and said Duncan calms her while she practices reading.

"I just like Duncan here because I like petting him when I read," she explained.

"When I'm reading, he's not like a normal person, like, he can't talk back to you. He just listens," student Reece Allison said.

The program is boosting reading scores, increasing self esteem and lowering absenteeism.

"It helps them get their confidence, and hopefully it will instill a love of reading. Because if they can read, they can teach themselves anything they want to throughout their life," Campbell said.

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