Therapy dogs take to Zoom to help eager young readers gain confidence
TORONTO -- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of therapy dogs have gone digital to help kids with their reading skills.
People. Animals. Love. (PAL) is an organization based out of Washington, D.C. that, among its services, allows kids to read out loud to a therapy dog to help develop their reading skills and gain confidence while doing so.
In less trying times, the kids and dogs would meet at a Washington-area library, but due to COVID-19, the program has moved to the video-conferencing app Zoom.
Each eager reader is paired with two dogs who listen to the story during the 30-minute sessions, with varying degrees of attentiveness. During this time, the readers gain valuable learning skills and added confidence in reading.
"The dogs don’t care if you mispronounce or stutter over a word,” James Haworth, director of PAL, told CTV News.
The dogs also help the children cope with the isolation of staying at home during the pandemic.
"Sometimes I feel sad, missing my friends and everything,” said Sarah Eilenberg, a young reader in New Jersey. “I just get really happy when I see all the dogs.”
Because it’s gone virtual, the program is now available to Canadians as well.
“It’s really fun, especially to meet new dogs every time," said Olivia Smith, a reader from Kingston, Ont.
The program has proven to be a smashing success, according to Olivia’s mother Caitlin Newey.
"Olivia actually shoos me away so she can read to them in private with the handler,” she said. “It does give me a bit of a chance to get some work done."