The mission of Paws and Tales is to improve the literacy skills of children using a unique approach of reading to a dog. Paws and Tales. utilizes registered therapy dogs (and cats too) who have been trained and tested for health, safety, skills and temperament. These special animals volunteer with their owners, offering children an irresistible opportunity to improve their reading in a setting which has proven to be effective and fun.
One key to the success of the experience is a shift away from the children viewing themselves as the target of yet another remedial program and toward seeing themselves as tutors and helpers for the dog. This is liberating and satisfying for the children and frees them from performance pressure. When a Paws and Tales dog is listening, the child is excited to read and tell the dog the story. The dog’s handler supports the child’s efforts and helps build vocabulary, increase comprehension and as a result the child reads with greater fluency.
Paws and Tales is based on the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program. R.E.A.D. began when Intermountain Therapy Animals started a pilot program at an elementary school in Salt Lake City, Utah. The pilot study revealed rapid increases in reading skills and comprehension as well as greater confidence and self-esteem, improved performance in homework completion, improved attendance and the development of a strong empathetic relationship the dog.
P.A.T.S. members considering volunteering in a school reading program involving R.E.A.D. strategies should be aware that a considerable commitment is required both in training time as well as being available on a regular basis to work with students under the direction of a classroom teacher. You can find out more about what is involved in the library and school programs by watching the videos available through Intermountain Therapy Animals.
In addition, a criminal record check is required in many settings if you volunteer with Paws and Tales
P.A.T.S. is pleased to offer Paws and Tales training and information to volunteers for this rewarding program. If you are interested please contact PATS office for further information.
To see the program in action check out the “Improving Literacy with Paws and Tales” video with Gary Walmsley and his Golden Retrievers, Benson and Cooper, working with the students at Frank Hobbs Elementary School, Victoria B.C. (Shaw TV).