Ossining High School students are teaming up with The Good Dog Foundation to conduct research on whether dogs can help kids become better readers.
I recently did a story on the “Tales for Tails” program at the Field Library in Peekskill. Volunteers with The Good Dog Foundation bring their pets to the library each month and kids, mostly in grades 1 and 2, read to the canines.
The program, both the kids and parents said, has helped them to be more confident readers. It was clear from watching these young students that they were so happy to be around dogs and proud of their accomplishments. Some of them also got over their fear of dogs.
Read the Ossining school district’s release on the research program happening in May below:
Can dogs help children become better readers? It’s a question that Lila Coogan and Emily Loughlin, members of the Ossining High
School Science Research Program, hope to answer. To do so, they’ve teamed up with The Good Dog Foundation, which provides Canine Assisted Therapy dogs, to work with students at
Brookside School and study the results.
Along with their trainers, Addy the Bloodhound, Jackson the Great Pyrenees/Lab, Tag the Golden Retreiver and Vanna the Black Lab will visit with first graders at Brookside who are learning to read. The OHS students will study whether working with the Canine Assisted Therapy dogs will improve the children’s reading abilities by decreasing their anxiety and also motivating them.
“We believe that if children receive Animal Assisted Therapy, as well as the regular, or more traditional, reading curriculum, then they will learn to read less anxiously than previously, as well as increase their reading capability,” wrote the students in a brief outlining their study.
Heather White, Westchester Executive Trainer and Program Coordinator at The Good Dog Foundation, is also enthusiastic about the study. “I feel this study is important as it will continue to shed light on reading programs that incorporate Animal Assisted Therapy,” she said. “This study focuses on multiple dimensions, from measuring the anxiety levels of the children who read to the dogs as well as observing the natural interactions that the dogs bring to a group setting, which aids in lower stress and anxiety and increased comfort for both the children as well as the dogs and people involved.”
For the high school researchers, the study combines two passions for both of them: animals and reading. “I’m looking forward to working with the dog handler teams and the kids and really seeing Animal Assisted Therapy first hand,” said Coogan, “as well as hopefully finding a sufficient way of helping kids who need a little bit more attention in reading.”
“I am looking forward to seeing the children improve and smile,” added Loughlin. “That is the goal for me: To help children learn, while at the same time making reading into a fun and exciting thing to do.”
The students are members of the Fundamentals of Science Research Program, which began in 1998 with 12 students. Today, 84 students in Grades 10, 11 and 12 participate in the three-year program with two full-time science research teachers. Students work with local mentors who are experts in their fields to conceptualize and conduct challenging research, which consistently achieves honors from such groups as the Siemens Competition, the Intel Science Talent Search and regional science competitions. Angelo Piccirillo and Valerie Holmes, who co-teach the Ossining High School Science Research program, credit the consistent success of Science Research students to the collaboration that exists between the all the teachers and staff of Ossining High School along with parental support. “You take that and add superior students and
professional researchers, you have a winning formula,” said Piccirillo.
Founded in 1998, The Good Dog Foundation provides therapy dog services to people in need in health care, social service, educational and community facilities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and at disaster sites around the country. The highly
trained, all volunteer, human/dog teams offer exceptional, healing services. A non-profit organization, The Good Dog Foundation advances research and promotes awareness about the benefits of the human-animal bond. For more information please visit www.thegooddogfoundation.org.
The dogs, trainers, student researchers and beginning readers will be working together at Brookside School on Tuesday May 4 and Tuesday May 25, from 9:15 to 11 a.m.
Photo of child reading to a dog at the Peekskill Field Library’s Tales for Tails program courtesy of TJN/R.Flores