It's unanimous. Well, at least as far as Jennifer Matteson's second grade class is concerned. The kids much prefer reading to a dog rather than their teacher or parents. Instead of fighting the phenomenon, thehas become one of the latest to embrace the R.E.A.D. Program in its school.
Already popular in libraries (dogs make regular visits to the Grafton, Shrewsbury, Westborough and Worcester public libraries), R.E.A.D (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) programs are starting to pop up in classrooms, too.
Abby ended up in Matteson's classroom as the result of some coordination, as well as coincidence. Caroline Armstrong, Rachael's daughter, is in Matteson's class, and when Rachael did some research about certifying Abby as a R.E.A.D. dog, Caroline suggested she talk with her teacher. Matteson, who trains service dogs, was more than happy to entertain the idea.
Tufts Paws for People is an affiliate group based in Grafton and works under the guidance of the Delta Society to train and provide people with therapeutic animal visitation. As part of its mission, Paws for People helps dogs and their owners achieve registration as a R.E.A.D. dog.
"The children frequently who are having difficulty learning," said Deb Gibbs, program coordinator for Tufts Paws for People, "are reluctant to practice their reading skills. T hey get a chance to practice reading to a dog, and not only does the dog not care if they have difficulty with the same word time and time again, but it goes from 'This is someting hard for me and i don't want to practice it' to 'This is really cool. I get to read to a dog.' It takes it from a kid who is embarrassed and it flips it 180 degrees."
For only the second time, Abby the eight-year-old golden retriever visited the Peaslee classroom last week, when students took turns reading books they had chosen. It was her second visit, and after three, Abby and her "mom" Rachael Armstrong will be able to take care of the reading without supervision. Her visits, too, will become weekly.
The kids don't care how Abby got there. They just can't wait until she comes back. They just know the pup enjoys a good story, and won't judge them at all if they should stumble through it.
Watch the video to learn more about the R.E.A.D. program and watch the kids and Abby in action.