Therapy Dog Helps Kindergartners Read - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Therapy Dog Helps Kindergartners Read

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By: Heather Graf

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - As Metro Schools mark the end of the year for students, one local teacher has found a way to keep his kids excited about reading, all summer long.

Greg Smedley teaches at Kirkpatrick Elementary School.

"I've always wanted to use a therapy dog in my classroom, because I've read a lot about it, and I've read some of the research," he said.  "The research says that kids who read to dogs have better fluency, higher reading levels, and just more confidence in their reading ability.

That's how he met Bear and his trainer, Leigh Barnes.

"Bear is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel," said Barnes.  "Their disposition makes them very good pet partner therapy animals, because they're very people-oriented and calm."

Twice a week for the past year, Bear visits Smedley's classroom.  He sits quietly in a corner, and one by one, students sit down with him, and read to him.

"As soon as we walk in the door, their hands are up, you know, 'Can I be the first one to read to Bear?'" said Barnes.  "And they love it."

At first, Barnes says, some of the kids would struggle as they sounded out the words.

"You know, at the beginning, I had to sort of encourage them a little bit and help them," she said.  "But now, I pretty much sit back, and they can read the entire book start to finish, without my help at all."

Smedley says the progress he's seen in his students is incredible.

"The results are amazing.  My kids absolutely love to read," he said.  "And I attribute that to Bear, and the excitement he brings with them and their reading."

Bear was also there to cheer-on the students, during this week's kindergarten graduation ceremony.

He'll be back in Smedley's classroom next year, to work his magic with another group of kids.

He is a certified therapy dog, and in addition to school, he also visits retirement homes.


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