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Students improve literacy by reading to dogs (Video)



Some students at Marion C. Seltzer School practice reading aloud -- to dogs.

The 20 students are part of the “Seltzer Pup Star Reading” program started by teacher Lisa Swet.  Once a month, they walk from the West 98th Street school to the City Dogs Cleveland Kennel, located a few blocks away.  

“A lot of our students are language learners,” said Swet, a 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award recipient.  “They're learning English as a second language, so they're oftentimes shy or reluctant to read, especially to read out loud. So not only does it build the confidence of our students, you can read a book to somebody who's not going to care if you say the word wrong or what you read to them.” 

Not only do the dogs not care if a student mispronounces a word, some dogs are so excited that the children are paying attention to them they can’t stop barking. Other dogs find the reading relaxing and fall asleep.    

Swet says one of the goals with the reading program is for the dogs to have a positive interaction with the children in the hopes they will then find a forever home.  

“And then for our students to have a purpose to reading while doing something that will develop empathy and make them think beyond themselves,” she said.  

Fifth-grader Jamailo, born in Kingston, Jamaica, loves to read and is thrilled to read to the dogs.  

"It was really fun and great,” Jamailo said. “The dogs were really barking. And it was really fun because you get to read, and they get to watch you read.”