Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Hey friends! For those of you who are new around here, we just finished up our first reading program at the Galloway School with our very own therapy dog Sadie! We absolutely loved it & wanted to catch you all up on how everything went and what we learned.
Recap of how this whole thing started
For the longest time, I (Michaelene) have wanted to incorporate Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) into my therapy sessions at Children In Motion. With the addition of Sadie to our team late 2016, I was presented to the opportunity to start a reading program with The Galloway School! Many of the teachers had noticed some of their students struggling with various areas of reading aloud, and were in need of a new approach. Myself and Polly Williams, the Principle of Early Learning at Galloway, met and crafted the specifics for the program. The goal of the reading program was to create an environment where the student's would gain confidence i their reading and actually start enjoying to read.
The Logistics of the Program
We met once a week for six weeks at the Galloway School. Each session with each child was 15 to 20 minutes long. Typically, Sadie & I would pick up the student from their classroom and head to the 'fish bowl' (conference room). To start things off, they would spend a few minutes saying hi to Sadie- talk to her, brush her, introduce Sadie to the book(s) they were going to read to her, and then they would start reading! To make sure Sadie understood what was going on, they would show her the pictures and tell her to look. After reading, the students would give Sadie a few treats, and then Sadie & I would escort them back to their classroom.
Over the course of six week, we observed the students reading with louder voices, developing nice reading rhythms, and experiencing increases in their overall confidence. At the beginning of the program one of our students verbally expressed their dislike for reading & was very quick to be finished. At the end of the program, that same student was reading chapters at a time and had to be told to stop reading because time was up!
What We Learned
Our first trial run with the reading program was amazing-but we did learn to change a few things. We learned that we need to spend more time with each individual student in the beginning, more like 20 to 25 minutes, so that the students and Sadie have more time to bond. We also learned that we need to extend the program to eight to twelve weeks- six weeks went by too fast!
At the end of our program, we have realized how thankful and blessed we are. We are thankful 1. for opportunities like this to help children in a way that is fun for them, 2. for amazing parents, teachers, & administration that gives us permission to try new things with the people they care about most, and 3. for a wonderful, loving, and patiently sweet dog Sadie. The future for AAT at Children In Motion looks bright, and we can't wait to start more AAT programs in the future!