Stratford Landing Elementary School students welcomed some special visitors to the Summer Extended Learning Time Program (SELT) during the month of July. Therapy dogs from Therapy Dogs International visited to participate in Stratford Landing’s first Read to the Dogs Program, designed to help students maintain and improve their reading skills. Students in 1st through 6th grade met in 15-minute increments with the dogs and took time not only to read, but also to learn about and cuddle with their new friends.
Several students enthusiastically described their experience, with 4th grader Miriam Mejia-Sanchez saying, “Shanti was sitting next to me and listening; [her owner] helped me read too.”
Students also expressed their preference to read to the dogs in a calm setting instead of a noisy room of people. Rising 6th grader Carlos Medrano shared that reading to his dog Hobbs was “more quiet […] reading to the dog was better than a person because the dog lays by you and looks at the book.”
Miriam agreed, saying, “a person would be looking around and not listening; Shanti was sitting next to me and listening as I read.”
Rising 4th grader Xavier Butler noted that, “Bree didn’t interrupt me when I read; she did lick me though.”
The SELT Program, a Fairfax County Public Schools initiative, provides students with an opportunity to maintain reading and writing skills during the summer months. With the Read to the Dogs Program, students are able to practice read-aloud skills in a calm and judgment-free setting.
Rising 5th grader Avarie Arrington shared that reading to the dogs “was easier than with people. People will stare at you when you read, but the dogs just listened. I was able to focus more on my reading.”
As the SELT Program concludes for the summer, Stratford Landing staff members are planning on inviting the dogs back during the school year.
First grade teacher Amber Gardner described how reading to the dogs “was a great confidence booster [for students] as they were able to show off their reading skills to an ‘audience’ of quiet listeners. Many of my students told me how excited and happy they were to be able to do read to the dogs and want to participate again.”