Cool Schools: Therapy dog helps Ox Bow students develop reading skills
ELKHART, Ind. – Each week, a special guest meets with a group of students at Ox Bow Elementary School and helps develop their readings skills.
However, instead of greeting kids with a handshake and friendly smile, the visitor wags his tail and asks for belly scratches.
“Our kids really look forward to the opportunity to go hang out with Trouper,” said Ox Bow Principal Javier Jimenez.
“It’s a dog that comes into the school that kids read to,” said Shelby Barker.
Trouper is a golden retriever therapy dog. Every Wednesday, he spends an hour and a half listening to students read for 15 minutes sessions.
“Trouper is nice and he cuddles with you while you’re reading,” said Barker.
The program started during the 2014-2015 school year.
Jimenez says it targets kindergarten through fourth grade students who teachers think need some extra help developing their comprehension skills.
“If we teach them to read, and they can read, then we’re opening the world to them,” said Jimenez.
Children say Trouper is friendly and they feel calm while reading to him. Jimenez says in turn, it develops their confidence which improves the way they read.
“Kids feel comfortable and relaxed with Trouper, so we hope it builds them up a little bit,” said Jimenez. “School is hard, so if we can give them a moment to be kids and enjoy you know the company of trouper while sneaking in some academics there, that’s great.”
Studies say animal assisted reading programs can improve students’ reading abilities. It also lists lower blood pressure and heart rates and increased levels of relaxation among kids as additional benefits.
“It’s mostly about building confidence with the kids,” said Jimenez. “They don’t know if they’re reading everything correctly but they’re just being themselves and reading.”
“Every student that comes to us, comes for a reason,” said Christina Schaubert.
Schaubert is Trouper’s handler and says he received extensive training to get to this point.
Over the years the program has grown to Concord Intermediate and Concord Jr. High School.
“The animal has the capacity to touch children that we as human beings cannot,” said Schaubert.
She not only notices improved reading skills but a more well-rounded kid after they read to Trouper.
“They smile, they laugh, the interact with him and it seems like they forget their problems when they’re interacting with Trouper,” said Schaubert.
Schaubert believes that helps them right their own story.
“So, so, sooooo much I like to [read to Trouper],” said Owen Hochstetler. “Trouper is like a really nice dog and he’s really kind.”